Make Your Next Dinner Reservation Using...Facebook's Mobile Apps

On its way to mobile world domination, Facebook added OpenTable restaurant reservations, movie and TV information, and support for hashtags to its iOS and Android apps. CIO.com blogger James A. Martin wonders if the constant addition of new features will ultimately help or hurt Facebook.

Take notice: Facebook wants its mobile apps to be your Yelp, OpenTable, Google search, Twitter, movie/TV guide and more. In fact, Facebook seemingly wants to be your everything. Eventually. I don’t think the company's apps will succeed in total world domination, but it gets credit for trying.

On Monday, Facebook announced that its users in North America can now book reservations through participating restaurants' Facebook Pages. Facebook’s integration with the OpenTable API makes the new feature possible.

Facebook OpenTable integration

In my limited experience, booking restaurants in the Facebook app on iPhone and Android smartphones is easy. I searched for the restaurant I wanted. In addition to the basic information you'd expect to find, such as restaurant hours and price ranges, there’s now a reservations section (if the restaurant is on OpenTable, that is).

The default reservation setting is for two people on the same date that you land on the restaurant’s Facebook page. You can easily change to another date and add more people.

I clicked the time I wanted, and that was it. OpenTable instantly sent me a confirmation email; I didn’t have to log into my OpenTable account at all. However, as of this writing, the OpenTable reservation feature was nowhere to be found in the Facebook app on my iPad, though I did see it is an option on restaurants' Facebook Pages in mobile browsers.

Facebook’s OpenTable feature is convenient if you already know where you want to dine. But the search function in Facebook’s mobile apps has yet to catch up with the desktop browser’s Facebook Graph Search. And Facebook's desktop search is no match for OpenTable itself. If you’re cruising for a restaurant and don’t have one in mind, or if you want to refine your search by cuisine, price, or neighborhood, you’ll still want to use the OpenTable app.

Yelp’s mobile apps also help you search for restaurants by type and location. And you can make an OpenTable reservation within Yelp’s apps, too. So at the moment, Facebook’s OpenTable link isn’t a serious threat to Yelp and other apps. But it could be as Facebook’s OpenTable integration and search functions grow more refined.

Facebook also announced on Monday that Facebook Pages for U.S. primetime TV shows and feature films now include upcoming showings. The listings reflect your time zone and display the channel, start and end time, and a description of the show or film. I found this info for some prime suspects, such as NCIS: Los Angeles, but not for top movies such as Elysium. So this feature still needs some work.

Finally, Facebook enabled hashtag support for iOS users. (Android is coming soon, according to the company.) Hashtags let you see what people (besides your friends) are saying about certain topics. But the new feature will also inevitably lead to more hashtag-filled Facebook updates, which could diminish Facebook’s more intimate, conversational tone. Despite the restaurant reservations and the never-ending flow of new features, it’s that conversation that keeps me coming back to Facebook. 

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