Sunday, January 23, 2011

More thoughts on Foursquare and Location Based Services

About eight months ago I shared some thoughts on Foursquare here. Although I focused on the mayor system in that post, as time went on there was something else nagging me about Foursquare. Something about the service doesn’t add up and still doesn’t for me. Gowalla is in the same boat but for the purposes of this article I am just going to focus on Foursquare.

There is a certain portion of the population interested in  seeing where they have been, what they have done, chronicling all of this, sharing it with their foursquare friends, etc.

The rest aren’t.

I am in the former camp. I love the service: the stats, seeing where I checked in the most, who with, the badges, etc. However, because all of my friends aren’t necessarily the same and don’t use the service, when I look at my check-in history and see who I checked in with the most what I am seeing is a misrepresentation of the events of my life.  The statistics presented are valid only for the percentage of friends in Foursquare’s population.  Interesting but useless. Perhaps these stats don’t aim to attain anything other than being interesting.

Beyond the addictive nature of the service itself and being able to see where I have been it doesn’t really add much value to my life. The sense of community I have with Facebook, or even Twitter, just isn’t there.  To be truly successfully Foursquare has to offer more and attract people who may not actually want to check-in. This would enable a sense of community.

My friends could be members of Foursquare and I can check them in on my account, but they don’t have to broadcast to the world.  This enables a multitude of possibilities. Foursquare check-ins can then be revisited after the fact and all members could share photos, funny quotes (bnter like), etc. Sort of like Memolane’s offering.  Putting the focus on the event versus the location would make the whole experience more personal. If you haven’t checked it out, Bing Plans takes this approach, however the two services aren’t really comparable.

If such functionality was added, it may weaken the appearance of Foursquare as an app that is strictly focused on location, its great strength. That’s why I don’t use Facebook Places. It feels like an afterthought. The service would not want to feel like a Facebook clone and I think ultimately this is going to be Foursquare’s challenge.

I really want to see Foursquare succeed and create a value to its users that goes beyond the “check-in.” Maybe this is continued discounts at some participating venues (personally this doesn’t excite), or more focus on the community and sharing. If they could find a way to get people using the application who don’t themselves want to check-in that would be a step up.  Hopefully in 2011 Foursquare has some differentiating offerings coming down the pipe, because I don’t know how much longer my Starbucks check-ins and Fresh Brew badges are going to keep me interested. The sense of community and friendship on Foursquare is what will take it to the next level.

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