- Facebook is testing a redesigned version of its "Nearby Friends" feature to show the location of friends on a map TechCrunch reported. The Nearby Friends pilot replaces a list view of neighborhood and city locations of friends with a map that groups them together by city and now resembles Snapchat's "Snap Maps."
- The map and list views show approximate locations, not the exact GPS coordinates of Facebook friends. While Snap Maps uses cartoonish bitmoji versions of users to indicate their map location, including indicators to show whether people are driving or getting on an airplane, Nearby Friends shows a profile photo on the map.
- Facebook confirmed the test, saying that users can control the feature by turning it on in the Nearby Friends bookmark. A tipster also told TechCrunch that Facebook apparently deactivated server-side ability to access the friend-mapping feature after the report was published.
Facebook's revised maps feature may help marketers reach target audiences by urging more users to share their whereabouts with friends, giving the social network more granular location data. Facebook's apps, including Instagram and Messenger, have a successful track record of improving upon features copied from Snapchat, especially "stories" that string together several images and videos into a single post that disappears after 24 hours. Facebook and Messenger's stories feature had 300 million users as of September, while Instagram's stories had 400 million daily users as of June, per WWD. Snap doesn't provide a breakdown of its stories users, but reported 188 million total users in its last quarterly report.
Location mapping is a less popular feature for Snapchat, whose Snap Maps usage declined to 19 million by September 2017 from a peak of 35 million the previous June, the Daily Beast repoorted. It's not clear if the issue is whether people want to share their physical location on social media. Foursquare had to change its business model as mobile check-ins became less popular and other apps like Facebook and Instagram added similar functionality, per The New York Times.
Facebook has tried to boost its popularity among younger social media users who have flocked to Snapchat, but by copying another feature from the image-messaging app, Facebook's power to innovate looks more questionable. The company has damaged its brand amid revelations about its past data-sharing practices, privacy breaches and role in spreading propaganda and fake news. Snapchat, which overtook Facebook as the top network for U.S. teenagers in 2016, will add an estimated 1.2 million new users ages 12-17 by 2022 and will remain the dominant platform for the age group, according to researcher eMarketer, which forecast that teen usage of Facebook will decline to 9.3 million in 2022 from 12.7 million in 2017.