As FourSquare gets set to hit the 4 million user mark, I thought it would be pertinent to jot down a few of my thoughts on the service.
By the look of things, Foursquare seems to be surviving the Facebook Places onslaught pretty well. I believe there are three reasons for this:
1. Facebook hasn’t really done anything with Places after the initial announcement. Apart from checking into a venue, there is not much one can do.
2. The ability awarded to a user’s friends to check in him/her into a venue riled up many people and led to a wave of distrust in Facebook Places.
3. Foursquare has been innovating and announcing partnerships at a blazing speed. Worth a particular mention is the ‘Blimp’ partnership for Conan O’Brien’s new talk show coming up on a US channel.
On a macro-level however, I feel that location services still haven’t figured out the ‘sweet spot’ yet. Right now the system is all about ‘check-ins’ and mayorships, but I expect that to change soon. When I started using Foursquare, I was super-active in checking in everywhere I went. But of late, my usage has drastically reduced due to the foll reasons:
1. Check-in fatigue: After a while it gets painful to whip out your phone wherever you go, start the app, locate a good signal, hope the GPS works fine, find your venue and check in. 3 months ago, there was a huge battle between people in my office to be the ‘Mayor’ of the company. Now no one cares. There is an iPhone app available already on the App Store which allows auto-checkins. It’s a great idea, if you are OK with recharging your phone every 5 hours.
2. Lack of incentives: Unless businesses start jumping on the bandwagon, there is little incentive other than bragging rights for users to use them. (Of course, it can also help you find your friends if both of you are in the same vicinity but the probability is low, so am not considering it for now)
GAP had done a 1 day 25% off promo for 4SQ checkins in the US which was a great success. (They did get this move right :) )
3. Irrelevant updates: Over time, I have seen people checking into bus-stops, highways, traffic jams and even their own homes. Updates like these are just noise and a waste of my time.
4. Gaming the system: Sitting in Chembur, I can check into a venue in Andheri and 10 mins later in South Mumbai. As Foursquare doesn’t seem to have any safeguards against cheating, the people with maximum spare time to play around with the application end up becoming the Mayors of venues anyways.
5. Convergence: I don’t like having to open up a separate app purely for checking in. This is why I think Facebook Places is a huge threat as it offers your social graph as well as location services at hand in one application. IMO, over time, Foursquare will have to integrate deeper with Facebook in order to survive.