It crept out as quietly as it crept in. Facebook's location-based Find Friends Nearby app was slyly introduced under the radar yesterday, but a rather frosty reception saw it withdrawn just 24 hours later.
The mobile-based feature, originally conceived as ‘Friendshake' at an all-night company hackathon, allowed users to track people around them, making it easier to add someone as a friend if they had just met. The app's Facebook page explained, "People who appear [on the app's tab] are nearby and have this page open. To add a friend who's not on the list, ask them to open this page: fb.com/ffn. They should appear on the list shortly."
On the surface the app's launch simply represented another effort from Facebook to broaden its mobile experience. But the nature of the tracking feature led to many dubbing it ‘creepy', with bloggers and tweeters soon calling it the ‘stalking app'. Not the best publicity for a company often derided for flouting privacy concerns.
Facebook responded by swiftly pulling the app from the iOS and Android stores and it became unusable for those who had already downloaded it. The company told Wired, "This wasn't a formal release - this was just something that a few engineers were testing. With all tests, some get released as full products, others don't. Nothing more to say on this for now, but we'll communicate to everyone when there is something to say."
But while Zuckerberg and co. dust themselves down from the not-so-successful sojourn of Find Friends Nearby, it may not be the end for the test-app just yet. Back in May, Facebook acquired Glancee - itself a friend-finding app - highlighting the social network's intention to develop location-based features of this nature. It will be interesting to see if the next installment hangs around a little longer.