Facebook pulled its Find Friends Nearby mobile feature so quickly that most people never saw it. Even so, it managed to stir up a lot of controversy and creepiness concerns in its short life.
The app alerted users when other users of the app were nearby, whether or not they were previously acquainted. As is typical for Facebook, the app was turned on by default when it appeared and TechCrunch became the first outlet to report on it.
Find Friends Nearby was co-developed by Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson during a hackathon. It was designed as a quick way for people who meet in a group setting (like a conference or event) to stay in touch afterwards, without the hassle of misplaced business cards or misspelled names.
Two problems quickly became apparent. One is that “friending” based solely on proximity can too easily turn into stalking. The other is that Charles Sankowich, CEO of FriendThem, contacted the media to contend “Facebook is blatantly stealing our idea.”
Venture Beat – FriendThem sues Facebook (in the court of public opinion)
FriendThem – official site
Photo by Flickr user by HaSHe, used under Creative Commons license