Okay, it sounds like we can stop wondering if Facebook is about to launch a “Facebook Phone.” At this morning’s press event at Facebook headquarters, founder Mark Zuckerberg kicked things off by saying that the company has no interest in doing so. What it does want to do, he said, is to make everything more social–including all phones.
So all of today’s news involved stuff that applies to multiple existing phone platforms, and most of it was totally platform-agnostic. A quick recap after the jump.
* Both the iPhone and Android Facebook apps are getting updates focused on support for Groups and Places–and the Android app, which has lagged the iPhone one, will come closer to full parity;
* A new single-sign on feature will let any mobile app permit Facebook users to log in with one click, no password required–similar to what Facebook Connect already does, but meant to make it even simpler. Groupon, Flixter, Yelp, Booyah, and others are already supporting this;
* The API for Facebook’s Foursquare-like Places feature will let third-party services write to it, read it, and search it, allowing location-based services such as Loopt to integrate tightly with Places;
* A new Deals feature will let local merchants offer bargains or other offers to Facebook users who are in their vicinity and who check out the Nearby option in Facebook.
All of this looks nifty, as long as the prospect of creeping Facebookization of the Web doesn’t bother you too much. I do think that the company didn’t answer every reasonable question about privacy this morning: My friend Larry Magid of CBS News asked what it’s doing to prevent third-party sites from intentionally or unintentionally misusing the location data they get about Facebook members, and Zuckerberg and others said that everything’s opt-in and the original Places privacy policies remain unchanged. Which didn’t fully address Larry’s query. And as usual with new Facebook features, it’s a good idea to see how members react; neither Facebook nor pundits have a perfect track record at anticipating how real people will respond to issues involving the use of their personal information.
Overall, though, this could be at least as big a deal as Facebook’s rolling out of a universal Like button was a few months ago. Me, I’m in favor of Facebook doing this stuff until someone else comes along and does a better job at it.