Posts tagged Checkin
There was a moment of laughter when ReadWrite editor-in-chief Owen Thomas asked Foursquare founder and CEO Dennis Crowley the question that was on everyone’s mind at Tuesday night’s ReadWriteMix event in San Francisco: “Is Foursquare still a thing?”
Crowley has big plans for his company, which include fragmenting its signature check-in app into two pieces. At ReadWriteMix, he told the crowd that the future of Foursquare isn’t the check-in. Instead, it’s two completely separate activities that now live in two different Foursquare-made apps.
Soon Foursquare will no longer be an app dominated by a check-in button. Indeed, it won’t even have one. Instead, the company is turning its flagship application into a Yelp-like location recommendation service that learns your behavior and sends you notifications on your phone it thinks you might find helpful.
For instance, if I regularly eat at burrito places in San Francisco, and I have Foursquare location service turned on, it will monitor those locations and learn where I go. Then, when I visit San Diego, Foursquare will send me a push notification for a burrito restaurant I might like.
The check-in will live in Swarm, Foursquare’s new social app—but that’s not the main focus of the app, either. Instead, Swarm is meant to help you find nearby friends and make plans, thanks to the ambient location services knowing where you are at all times. If you have that turned on, your friends can tell which neighborhood you’re in.
See Also: Why Swarm Won’t Save Foursquare
Social networking isn’t the future for Foursquare. Its robust places database rivals Google’s, and, with over 65,000 apps using Foursquare’s places API, the amount of location data the company has is huge.
Crowley said that people regularly ask him how to leverage that location data, including small businesses, journalists, and city officials. For instance, urban planners look at check-in data as they build out cities and suburban areas, he said.
The Potential Of Empowering Business
This radical change to Foursquare’s product comes at a time when the business finally seems to be hitting its stride.
“In the first two quarters of this year, we’ll make more money than we did all of last year,” he said.
Each check-in on Foursquare—soon, on Swarm—contributes to what Crowley calls “venue polygons.” These location shapes define a specific business or place, and can be used to create markers for geofences that will be able to tell when you’ve entered a specific location.
At this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, many people expected Apple to talk about iBeacon, its Bluetooth-powered product that can alert shoppers to deals or recommendations, as well as allow people to make payments from their smartphones, when they enter a place of business, or even a particular section of a store. Apple didn’t announce any information about iBeacon this week, but at ReadWriteMix, Crowley talked about Foursquare’s potential to provide businesses with similar options.
Where iBeacon depends on Bluetooth transmitters which can transmit data to a smartphone, Crowley says Foursquare has the capabilities to map places purely through its software and data, without draining people’s smartphone batteries. And it also won’t require small-business owners to place new devices in their stores.
“We think about this: How can we do what iBeacon is doing, but do it without having to ask people to install stuff in their store?” he said.
The hardware can be cumbersome, and it’s still not widely adopted. If Foursquare can offer similar capabilities by leveraging smartphone location data and partnering with different businesses, people might soon be able to step into a store, read a suggestion, and make a purchase, all from the palm of their hand—and the business wouldn’t have to do much at all.
Of course, Crowley’s vision for a Foursquare that tracks your ambient location data and knows where you are at all times brings up serious privacy concerns. As more people become wary of sharing private data with both friends and social networks, the question becomes whether people want or need a service that is all-knowing, and all-tracking.
“Our intent is to make these magical pieces of software that teach you about the world,” Crowley said.
On both Foursquare and Swarm, you can turn the ambient location sharing off—but, of course, that takes away from some of the benefits you get by downloading them in the first place. Like any other social network, if you want to use Foursquare or Swarm for convenience, you’ll have to trust your data to the company. For some, it’s worth it. But others will never be convinced that allowing both Foursquare and friends to know where they are at all times is a good idea.
Just before the end of the event, Crowley told the audience he wants their feedback, and it’s important to the company to better understand how people use Foursquare, and learn what problems they perceive.
“If anyone thinks we’re doing something we shouldn’t, I hope you call us out on it,” he said.
Image via Selena Larson for ReadWrite
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Foursquare is unbundling. The company announced Thursday it’s splitting the main Foursquare application into two services—one that tracks where you are, and another that helps you figure out where you’re going next.
The plan is an ambitious move to fragment Foursquare’s mobile services—perhaps taking the lead from Facebook in that manner—and shed the stereotype that has plagued the app since 2009: That Foursquare is just an app for checking into places.
The new Foursquare app eliminates the check-in entirely, placing it instead in a separate new application called Swarm. A redesigned Foursquare app will be built from the ground up for a launch later this summer, and that app will be responsible for offering personalized recommendations in a similar way to Yelp.
“The unbundling is motivated by us listening to the users and observing the way users use the app, both watching them and seeing the data and what the data suggests,” Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said in an interview. “A lot of functionality is crammed into the Foursquare experience.”
Moving Beyond The Check-In
Foursquare’s new application Swarm is supposed to help friends find each other easier, whether or not they check in. Its ambient location services will know your relative location even if you don’t check in, and will share that information with friends.
Foursquare’s directory of places, unlike Yelp’s, doesn’t feature paragraph-long diatribes that accompany the location. Instead, each location has specific “tips” or short snippets of what’s best or what to avoid at any given destination.
It will be hard for Foursquare to shift its reputation from a check-in app to a recommendation engine. Many people, myself included, use Foursquare for this singular purpose, and the check-in is arguably Foursquare’s bread and butter.
It’s a risky move to rip checking in from Foursquare entirely. People are accustomed to using Foursquare for this main reason, not so much to find recommendations. Crowley said the company is building in hooks so bouncing between Foursquare apps isn’t an inconvenience, but it doesn’t change the fact that Foursquare is in completely new territory. (Again, Facebook pursued a similar strategy recently by removing the chat function from its main app and forcing users into its private Messenger app.)
Foursquare needs to be mindful about the failure of most ambient location services. Many location-broadcasting startups never caught on with the masses; Facebook has even failed multiple times with its friend-finding features, and more recently, when the company rolled out a feature nearly identical to Foursquare’s Swarm, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
Giving Up Privacy For Suggestions
Foursquare has spent the last four years building a massive collection of places thanks to five billion global check-ins. It doesn’t need you to add to it anymore; instead, Foursquare will learn your behaviors and provide you with suggestions as to what it thinks you will like.
Already the app alerts users to places they will probably like nearby, based on their previous locations.
“Some of those passive notifications that you’ve gotten [in the Foursquare app] is because Foursquare can just sense you’re at a certain place,” Crowley said. “Without saying too much about what the new Foursquare will look like, you can imagine a version of Foursquare that doesn’t actually need you to check into places.”
Essentially, even though Foursquare won’t be the check-in app anymore, it will still collect all your data, but now you don’t need to tell it anymore. Foursquare will use your phone’s location services paired with its vast location database to track where you go in order to provide you with location suggestions.
Foursquare won’t be sharing this location data with your friends, but Swarm will. You don’t need to check in for your friends to be able to find you.
“The app has neighborhood awareness,” Crowley said. For instance, he said, “if I open up my app right now I’ll see 20 people checked in to Foursquare HQ in New York City, but I’ll see a handful of other friends in the Soho neighborhood who haven’t checked in anywhere.”
For users that would rather not have their friends know where they are at all times, Foursquare’s ambient location service can be turned off.
Foursquare’s new approach is interesting. Personally, I find the Foursquare location suggestions potentially helpful, though I’m not keen on my friends knowing where I am at all times—especially since many people in my Foursquare network aren’t even real friends anymore.
As a service that knows which restaurants you frequent, Foursquare telling you where to eat and what to order might come in handy. As long as you’re okay with Foursquare tracking your whereabouts the rest of the time.
All images courtesy of Foursquare
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Microsoft has invested $15 million in Foursquare and said it will license the former’s location data according to news released yesterday. Foursquare aspires to be “the location layer for the internet.” With real-time feedback about local data accuracy, based on user movements and…
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