It seems Facebook has quietly redesigned its Places directory page. With the integration of the Page Locations API, Graph Search and user-generated content, Facebook Places now almost looks like a crude local search site that offers guided browsing.

Places also now has a small section of popular places in the user’s current location, like the one below from Matteo Gamba, who was first to note the change.

Below this section is a “Explore Other Places” menu that lets you choose from hundreds of cities in different countries.

 

It’s a good place to start searching for new places to discover in your city or to find landmarks to visit for your travels. Places now lists local establishment by city or category, helping you search places with just a few clicks.

If you click on a city, you’ll redirect to the city directory page, which features a cover image of the city with the header “Things to Do in [City Name]”. The total number of likes and check-ins for that city is also displayed.

Below the images are the popular places listed under six main categories: Restaurants, Hotels, Bars, Cafes, Public Attractions and Arts and Entertainment. If you want to break a sweat, watch a film or restock your pantry, you can also search places under these categories: Gyms, Movie Theatres, Schools, Theatres, Grocery Stores and Landmarks.

The places listed on category pages show user-generated content, including a photo, business name, phone number, location, opening hours, average price, reviews, ratings and sometimes comments from friends.

According to Allfacebook.com, a query view from Graph Search is also available to make the most important information readily available.

Facebook Places allows users to share their real-time location and see if any of their friends are currently checked in nearby. Conversely, users can check into nearby Places and tell friends where they are. They can also tag friends in Places they’ve visited and view any comments from friends.

A New Local Search Substitute?

Probably not. At least, not at the moment.

The search box only responds to queries by city name. So, if you want to find out the best cafe in town, you will have to manually enter the location and look up every place listed in the category. This is because Facebook Places doesn’t deliver results to queries like “best Chinese takeaway”. But, there is still room for improvement.

There are additional options in the right margin to easily narrow down your search. These social tools allows you to filter results by category, name, places “liked by” or “visited by” a friend, and more.

While it is still far from becoming an alternative local search tool, the new Places is a strategic step for Facebook if it aims to get more local businesses on board.