The days of actually having to ask your friends for a restaurant recommendation may be over. Facebook’s latest mobile app update, released today, includes an expanded “Nearby” feature that now allows users to discover restaurants, nightlife, and shopping venues based on activity from their friends and others. Prior to the update, users that clicked the “Nearby” tab on Facebook’s mobile app could only see a running list of their friends’ check-ins; now, they will be served a local map of businesses that Facebook thinks the user would enjoy. According to TechCruch, the company will employ a similar algorithm for “Nearby” recommendations as how they currently rank stories in the news feed — showing what they think would be most relevant to the user first, based upon a number of factors including friends’ likes, check-ins, ratings and comments. In addition, users can also browse for venues by category such as coffee shops, hotels, nightlife, and even restaurants and stores by specific types. Users will be encouraged to share their own recommendations and ratings as well — “Your own suggestions become more personalized the more you and your friends rate, recommend, and check into places,” said the social network.
This new offering makes sense for a number of reasons. First among the 1+ billion members in the Facebook community, roughly a quarter are already using the check-in feature to tag locations, says product manager Josh Williams. Second, it should encourage local businesses to actively maintain their Facebook pages in an effort to attract more first time or walk-in clients who discover them through the app. Third, the update falls in line with Facebook’s mobile strategy, now giving its userbase another reason to use the app while on the go. It also opens up opportunities for future advertising, though at this time rankings and recommendations are all delivered on a non-sponsored basis. Finally, Josh Constine from TechCruch describes this as Facebook’s first major foray into search: “At Disrupt, CEO Mark Zuckerberg got investors salivating by talking about how Facebook is uniquely positioned to addresss questions you’d normally ask a search engine,” he wrote. “He gave the example of wondering ‘What sushi restaurants have my friends gone to in New York in the last six months and liked?’ Nearby has the answer.”
The update will roll out to the entire userbase in the next couple days. More information can be found at Facebook.com.