UPDATE: We’ve learned that this feature was initially called Friendshake but is now called Find Friends Nearby. As such, all mentions of “Friendshake” in the original article below should now be taken to mean “Find Friends Nearby”. -SHBD
Facebook is currently testing and developing a new feature called Friendshake which aims to help people find others who are nearby. However, this new feature also has the potential to be annoying or even dangerous.
But first off, let’s discuss this new Facebook feature. Friendshake is now currently accessible to all through http://fb.com/ffn which is an abbreviation of “find friends nearby,” TechCrunch reports. Furthermore, Friendshake is also available through Facebook’s mobile application which is on virtually all the currently-dominant mobile operating systems.
The publication got to know of Friendshake from developer Roger Pincombe who was made aware of the new Facebook feature by a fellow developer who works at Facebook. Pincombe got the scoop on the app as the Facebook developer was reportedly “showing off” the app at the Angelhack event in San Francisco.
According to TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden, Pincombe was told not to tell other people of the feature. Friendshare is yet to be officially unveiled by the social networking juggernaut. However, the developer apparently gave the greenlight to share the information to the publication.
Meanwhile, following the link mentioned above, you would be sent to this page pictured below with the address https://m.facebook.com/friendshake:
You need to be logged into Facebook to use this feature. When other people who are also logged into Facebook and are also on the same URL as you, you see their names and profile pictures.
We imagine that this could be an easier way to find people – who you just met at an event like a conference or at a bar – on Facebook.
That, however, is not always a good thing. Picture this: you meet someone at an event or in a bar who, for some reason, does not tickle your fancy.
However, since you become visible to others who are near you and are using the Friendshare, they could easily find out your name or your Facebook page through the feature. They may then hound you on the social network.
This could even be dangerous if used by people who have seriously terrible intentions. As a tool, it makes for easily identifying people to stalk or worse. Then again, anything could become dangerous in the hands of a person with malicious intents.
Nonetheless, there may be potential ways to stem that annoying and potentially dangerous consequence of having a feature that makes your information easier to find for those near you. One would be turning it off but that would completely defeat the purpose of the feature, wouldn’t it?
As for now, we see Friendshake not becoming an annoyance depending on how maturely people use it. That’s the hope of the developers too, so it seems.
A Facebook software engineer named Ryan Patterson commented on the TechCrunch article saying:
“I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration).
For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when 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.”
That would be the ideal use but still, you can picture how Friendshake can be abused.
Another thing that we wonder about is how Facebook and consequently Friendshake will know where you are. Facebook has a check-in feature but people do not always use it. That would be another concern that the developers of Friendshake need to address.
Other improvements which could be done on Friendshake, which TechCrunch also suggests, is having the option of finding people who are friends of your friends or have the same interests as you.
Image 2 from Julien Lozelli on Flickr (CC)