Foursquare: Is it really a game changer?

As 2009 ended, like usual, we saw tons of blog posts and speculation about what’s in store for 2010. One common theme (that had even been hinted upon long before the end of the year) was “geo-location based apps” such as Foursquare, and now contender Gowalla.

While I definitely see a huge untapped potential for local businesses to take advantage of. At this point I don’t think Foursquare will be the next Twitter. From my perspective, there are a few growing problems with the tool.

  • Scalability – I think I was one of the first 50 or so users in Ottawa when Foursquare was launched here. I *loved* it! I used the handy web tools to find all my Twitter and Facebook friends and I already knew many of the other users. However, as it grows, the happy community feel is diminishing. Also unless you’re checking in over 200 times a week (which, even as a highly social person, I find that completely ludicrous) you don’t even have a chance at making the top 10 anymore. The competitor in me has lost interest.

    Also, a recent Tech Crunch article claims that appealing to a mass audience means compromising quirky features that appealed to the original geeks who embraced it. Douchebag badge anyone?

  • The annoyance factor – As I mentioned above, Foursquare allows you to import your Twitter followers and add them as friends in Foursquare. So that begs the question, why do so many feel the need to tweet their every Foursquare activity?

    This seems to be creating a counter-Foursquare movement by Twitter users who are fed up with the “spammy” foursquare updates. (With very smart people like Judy Gombita leading the way, see her passionate interview on one of my favourite blogs – MediaStyle)

  • And now what? – The reason tools like Twitter and Facebook have been so successful is the sense of empowerment they provide to users. Facebook allowed us all to re-connect and better stay connected to old friends and past acquaintances. Twitter taught us a new and powerful way to communicate and network in 140 characters or less.

    But Foursquare does what? Enables stalkers to function more efficiently? Yes, it’s really cool when you check in at an event and find other people there as well, but Twitter already does that via hashtags, and has a much larger user-base. Foursquare has a lot of ‘hey that’s really cool’ elements to it, but nothing that is going to set of bells in our heads and make us feel like we couldn’t live without it.

For the record–I am an avid user of Foursquare. It’s fun and I definitely see staying power potential, I just don’t envision it as the next big thing anymore. What do you think?


  1. Erica

    Every new social service has to overcome the reluctance to start over, to refriend, to drag your coworkers and family and elderly parents to a new platform. The inertia of the entrenched social networks is going to prevent wide adoption of too many “next big things”.

    I just read that 1.45% of Canadians use Twitter (compared to 19% of Americans), and that’s the current big thing. The cool social potential in location-aware mobile technologies diminishes in proportion with people’s social networking burnout. Now build this into Facebook…

  2. Kelly Rusk

    Great point Erica, and I agree, unless a new service has some sort of differentiator that people can’t live without, they probably aren’t going to move over.

    I think since Twitter, there’s been a lot of other great tools that have failed, just because they don’t have the established user base, even if they did have nifty new features, it’s just not enough.

    Also agreed, combining the technology with existing networks has some real potential, and I believe Twitter has already enabled it for developers. Though I agree it makes much more sense with Facebook, because there’s more value for geo-location within your ‘real friends’ vs. Twitter followers, who could be anyone.

    Thanks for coming by!

  3. Colin

    I’m not sure why Foursquare exploded in the way it did… I was neglecting Brightkite more than a year before that.

    Location-based services are great for talking about local things, but ultimately I have more to say about things that aren’t specific to where I am in my day-to-day life.

    People are bored of Tweets about the mundane things you’re doing, and prefer to hear about your ideas and things you’ll share that have meaning to them. Foursquare and similar services sort of limit you to talking about local things, so when you’re not at an exciting event, you’re not saying much on it.

    My $0.02.

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