Romey's Ramblings

Random musings of Jeromey Balderrama

Is it time to give up Foursquare?

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foursquare

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty busy day for us. In addition go going out to breakfast and running errands, we were also treated to a date night (dinner and a movie).  Ultimately we went to over a half-dozen places, and for each one I neglected to check into Foursquare.

I started using check-in apps back in 2009 with Gowalla. At the time Foursquare was gaining popularity but wasn’t yet on Android at the time. When Foursquare finally released their Android app in 2010, I switched allegiances and was quickly checking in at every place I went. What initially attracted me to Foursquare was their presentation of your statistics.  I loved the gaming aspect of the app: the points you get from checking in and the mayorships you collect.  My whole family and a lot of friends got onto Foursquare, and we had a lot of fun trying to one-up each other in points and check-ins, especially when mayorships were on the lines.

As with all tech startups, Foursquare had to figure out how to generate revenue, and over the years you’ve seen the app design and focus shift from the gaming aspect to trying to become a recommendations engine.  If you look at the app today, the points you get for checking in are no longer display by default, and you have to dig pretty deep in the app to get your mayorships or the scoreboard with your friends.  Whenever you check in anywhere, it doesn’t even tell you who is the mayor or how far away you are from stealing their title.  The news feed showing where your friends last checked in still adds some value, but without the gaming aspects I find myself questioning whether my friends really do care whether I went to the grocery store or gas station.  Part of it is attributed to the fact that my activities are probably a little more mundane now that I have a baby, you don’t see as many bars or restaurants in my feed anymore, but even if I’m somewhere interesting: Foursquare is providing me with little incentive to bust out my phone and check in.

Just like with Twitter, I realize that Foursquare needs to monetize in order to be sustainable – but I don’t understand how you can call yourself a social network when you take out all that is social.  If I want an app that is going to give me good reviews and recommendations, I’ll go over to Yelp or just stick with Google Maps.  I can respect a company trying to pivot, but now Foursquare is pretty much out of bounds.

  • Matt W

    I find it coincidental that you post this as this particular evening that you are writing about I actually tried to use Foursquare to learn what restaurant you were Instagramming from. I actually like that the gaming aspect is not as prominent. I felt like it encouraged over-sharing. I literally have a coworker that will check in at his mailbox, at his house and at his home gym, is the kitchen next? And any gaming system can be gamed. If I were motivated by gaining points, I could just take a stroll downtown and check in at the front door of each store/restaurant. The point system was really only valuable for visiting new places (which is a good thing to encourage) or if you were a mayor for which you would get large multiples for your check-in versus the +1 point you would get for going somewhere you’ve already been, and lets face it you’re going to eventually run out of new places. I found that my points would only spike when I was traveling where every check in would get 5-10 points.

    My continued use of Foursquare is driven by the fact that I like the tracking aspect of it. It’s a common question when we visit a place we haven’t been in awhile “how long has it been since we’ve been here” which Foursquare now notifies you at check-in. I also like seeing the trends of my check-ins and also being able to go back and figure out “what was that restaurant?”. I do find myself checking in at areas that have a little more significance for tracking (restaurants, airports, hotels, entertainment venues) and less so the day to day (the office, gas station). I also enjoy the “quick hit” tips that are harder to find on a site like Yelp.

    I would agree that suggestion engine in Foursquare is getting in the way of the user experience. One of my biggest frustrations with the “locating service” is that it doesn’t sort the list of places to check-in by proximity to your location. Often times the smaller/less known shop (that they used to encourage visiting) doesn’t even show up on the list which requires you to search for it and upon finding it does show that you are located close, yet it will list the big box store that is half a mile away will show up. Even so, I still find this a fun/valuable tool and will continue to use it.