Facebook takes on Nextdoor with Neighborhoods tool

The social network is testing the Neighborhoods feature in Canada and four US cities first.


Image credit: Facebook

Facebook is testing a new tool aimed at helping people get to know their neighbors and local communities, taking on social media app Nextdoor.

The world’s largest social media website announced Wednesday that Neighborhoods, a feature of its mobile app, will be available in four US cities and Canada. To use the new tool, Facebook users must be at least 18 years old. It will allow people to find neighbors who share common interests, discover local groups and businesses, participate in polls, and receive and offer assistance to those in their communities.

Charlotte, North Carolina; San Diego, California; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Newark, New Jersey are among the cities in the United States. Facebook users already use the social network for these purposes via groups, but Neighborhoods brings all of this information together in one place.

Using Neighborhoods is optional, and users must share their location to be matched to a neighborhood. Aside from sharing their Facebook profile information, users can also share their interests, such as skiing, and there is a section to get to know the pets in your neighbourhood. People who use the feature may also take on different roles such as “socializer,” “helper,” or “welcomer,” according to her.

Reid Patton, product manager for Facebook neighbourhoods said in an interview, “We show not only people living in their area but how they relate and what these people are interested in and care about.”

Canadians who have already begun testing the tool have used it to locate missing pets, plan hiking trips, meet new people, find a handyman, and obtain baking supplies, according to Patton.

The new feature, which is available for both Android and iPhone users, may pose additional challenges for Facebook, which is already struggling to moderate the billions of posts that pass through its site. People may also be wary of providing even more data to Facebook, which has been embroiled in several privacy scandals.

Facebook is also notorious for imitating its competitors, but social networking services focused on neighborhoods, such as Nextdoor, have grappled with similar issues, such as racial profiling. Before a user joins Neighborhoods, Facebook will outline guidelines, noting that it wants to keep the online space “inclusive” and “safe,” according to Patton.

Every neighborhood will also have moderators to ensure that people follow the rules and are courteous, she said. Users with too-new accounts and those who have repeatedly violated the site’s rules, according to Patton, will be barred from using Neighborhoods.

Users who are eligible for Neighborhoods testing will receive a notification and a banner in the Facebook app encouraging them to participate.

“We’re trying to figure out how people use neighborhoods and how much value they get out of them,” Patton explained. “We also hope to find out how we can improve the product.”

Source: Cnet, Techcrunch

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