On Monday, Facebook added a feature to its Messenger app which allows users to continuously share their locations for up to an hour, strengthening its competition to tools offered by Apple and Alphabet’s Google Maps.
Head of product for Messenger Stan Chudnovsky, said in an interview that the company has found that one of the most used phrases on Messenger as people talk to friends and family is “How far away are you?” or some variation. He stated: “It happens to be what people are saying, what they’re interested in the most,”
Location information sharing is optional. However, it can also be live, so that once a user shares the information with a friend then this friend can watch the user’s movement for up to 60 minutes
In 2014 Facebook broke Messenger as a separate app after once being part of its core smartphone app. Facebook has invested in frequent changes since to build a service distinct from the massive social network.
Last week Google said that it was adding a similar live feature to its product Google Maps in an attempt to boost engagement on a product of increasing strategic importance to that company.
Chudnovsky said that the close proximity of the announcements signifies to Facebook that they’re working on the right things.
Apple’s iPhone’s Messages app has such a feature, as well.
Chudnovsky said that Facebook has been testing its change in Mexico and it has been ready as long ago as October but the company worked on it for five more months to reduce its impact on the battery life of phones.
The feature could potentially be used for convenience to coordinate with friends, for safety-related purposes or for other uses, according to Facebook. Chudnovsky said. “There are all sorts of products that you can imagine you could build on top of that.” The company said that the update is being made available globally.