Facebook has quietly rolled out a new feature that allows you to easily find profiles of people who are close in physical proximity to you.
Unlike previous Facebook apps, which have primarily been aimed at helping you strengthen connections with existing friends, Find Friend Nearby is aimed at helping you make more connections.
As Ryan Patterson, the Facebook engineer who developed the app during a hackathon, told TechCrunch, “the ideal use case for this product is the one where you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.”
The product is being released at a time when online advertising studies are strengthening the argument that so-called weak ties are more effective at spreading a message through social networks than messages passed from people’s closest friends and contacts. The tool, which is informally known by the working title Friendshake, has already been suggested as being the perfect tool for conferences and networking events, suggesting that Facebook may be looking to move more firmly into the business networking arena currently dominated by LinkedIn.
How To Use (Or Not Use) Find Friends Nearby
The app, which is available online as well as on Facebook’s Android and iOS versions, is opt-in. That's something of a rarity for new Facebook products, but given how sensitive the information being shared is, it makes sense that Facebook would avoid the usual privacy backlash it faces whenever it launches a product that automatically shares your data.
While logged into Facebook, you also log into the Find Friends Nearby app. After a few seconds, anyone in your vicinity who also has the FFN page open should appear on the list.
We haven’t been able to test it thoroughly yet, for the simple reason that the app is so new (and apparently still in development) that no one came up in the list when we took it for a test run. It’s also not clear what range Facebook uses to define “nearby.”