Hands On With Facebook's Nearby Friends


There's a lot that Facebook allows you to share with your friends. On Thursday, the company added "exact location" to that list.


Facebook's new Nearby Friends feature enables you to flip a switch to start broadcasting your location with friends in the area. If you see someone nearby with whom you want to meet up, you can tap a button, and send them your exact location - complete with a map detailing where to find you.



It's a push from Facebook to encourage more users to connect offline. For some, the feature will simply collect dust in the corner, as willingly allowing Facebook to follow your movements is a deal-breaker.


But there is a use case for Nearby Friends, and many users may get value from knowing which of their friends are in the area. You can meet up for coffee, find each other at a crowded concert or even follow your friends as they backpack across Europe. The feature was built to give users control over what they share, and with whom. For those of you who are intrigued.

Once you click on Nearby friends, you will be required to flip through a short four-page tutorial; this is where Facebook will explain how to use the app and what it does. The tutorial's last page is most important: It's where you decide who you want to share your location with.


You cannot share with the public or even friends of friends. The default setting on this page is "friends," but you can get more specific if you have previous groups saved on Facebook. For example, I can choose to share with my colleagues by clicking on the "Mashable" group I previously created.


Once you hit "Turn On," you are active, and other friends using the feature will be able to see your general location. You can see people from all over the world. For example, one friend of mine in India appeared within my list, 8,400 miles away. I realize that is not "nearby," but the further you scroll down the list, the further away those friends are.


If you see someone with whom you want to share your exact location, you can click the little directional-arrow button to the right of that user's name; this enables you to share your exact location with him or her for a set amount of time. You can include a short note to your friend, here (up to 40 characters). And you can also set what time you want to stop sharing your location by using the timeline that pops up.


If you choose to share your exact location, but then change your mind before that set time is up, you can manually end the connection at any time. To do this, simply click on the directional arrow once again, and select "Stop Sharing This."