Whrrl Says It’s Up Next for Facebook ‘Places’ Partnerships

whrrl-logoFacebook’s location-based cartel will evidently include more than the launch partners it rolled out last week. John Kim, VP of product management and marketing for Pelago, told ClickZ on Monday that his company’s Whrrl service will soon join Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, and Booyah as an integrated Facebook “Places” partner.

Kim said his Seattle-based company has been in talks with Facebook in recent weeks and got its first glimpse of the Places APIs one day after the social site announced the platform on Aug. 18.

“We were not in talks in time to make this first release,” he said. “But we think it’s OK. We were the first Facebook Mobile Connect partner [in 2008]. Being first has its advantages. It has a lot value, but it is even more important to understand the APIs and how to use them well. I’ll say one of the disadvantages to being first is that the APIs are not stable yet. If use cases emerge, while Facebook is excellent at working through those issues, you don’t necessarily want to be the first guy testing all these new APIs.”

While echoing Foursquare’s claim that user gains have spiked since Facebook Places launched last week, Kim didn’t offer specific numbers. However, he said the Whrrl service – which attracts people who want to join mobile “Societies” of particular interests – has recently topped 400,000 users. The marketing VP added that the brand’s Societies have increased from 2,000 to 3,000 in the last six weeks, and he suggested that Facebook Places should help those numbers continue to rise.

“When we communicate with consumers, one of the more difficult things to educate them about is what a check-in is,” Kim said. “And now with Facebook introducing it to the mainstream, it solves that problem. And it solves a fundamental use case around friend finding. And so for us, we believe it fits very well with our strengths where we are really focused on real-world discovery.”

On the marketing front, geo-social brands like Whrrl hope to receive an upgraded style of Facebook distribution for its merchants’ campaigns during user check-ins. To be clear, check-ins on Foursquare and other services have already been published on Facebook for users who enable connections. But through these partnerships, brand logos for retailers like Murphy’s USA on Whrrl could appear in a user’s newsfeed on Facebook.

Kim suggested that Whrrl’s brand advertisers do not sound like they are ready to jump ship to Facebook Places. “We are busier than we’ve ever been,” he said. “I think a lot of brand partners are excited that the location-based space is starting to blow up. And I think a lot of the brand partners see [Facebook Places] as a market maker in regards to how the market will grow and how location-based check-ins will be something that will be much more commonplace.”

ClickZ also reached out to location-based services Loopt, SCVGR, and Brightkite to gauge their reactions to Facebook Places. Brightkite CEO Rob Lawson was tight-lipped about whether his location-based company would also become a Facebook Places partner.

“We don’t tend to talk about future releases until they are out there,” Lawson said. “But with Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, you should expect us to continue to talk to the [entities] our users want to connect with.”

How heavily other geo-social brands become integrated with Facebook Places remains to be seen. But it seems clear that Facebook is open to allowing existing location-based services utilize the Places platform.

Meredith Chin, spokesperson for the Palo Alto, CA-based company, said the platform continues Facebook’s tradition of giving the developer community a lot of leeway. “In this case, if your friend checks in to a restaurant on Yelp, you will be able to see it even if you’re using Places,” she said. “We believe this to be a valuable experience for people regardless of the service they’re using.


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