FourSquare 1.0 is doomed, but it’s not because of Facebook Locations.
For the better part of 2010 I owned Nashua, NH- well at least on FourSquare. I was not just an early adopter, but an advocate for the location based social ‘game.’ The concept of becoming the ‘Mayor’ of a business or location by ‘Checking-In’ the most appealed to me. It was a challenge I could win at my most frequented restaurants, shops, and even at work.
As a FourSquare advocate I explained the purpose and benefits of telling your friends where you were:
“If you’re in a coffee shop and check in, a friend of yours might be in the area, see that you checked in and join you.”
Huzzah! It’s about time your online social network joined you in real life! Or is it? (dramatic pause) A friend of mine, Shea Sylvia, wrote a cautionary tale on her blog about a creepy guy who saw she had checked-in to a restaurant on FourSquare. Mr Creep actually called the restaurant asking for her- (music from TV show Lost would fit nicely here) “Ahhh!”
Okay, so FourSquare only allows your friends to see where you check-in. Before we scold Shea for simply ‘friending’ to many creepy dudes on FourSquare, it’s important to note that you can also see who checks into locations without being their friend.
The other big controversy, this one with equal parts satire, was Rob Me Please. The site is currently down, but their point was that people tend to ‘over-share.’ A robber could see that you’ve gone on vacation and steal your flat screen. Technically this robber would have to know where you lived and all, but it’s not too hard to see how that could be found out.
Being a big tough guy with a relatively small flat screen, I wasn’t too concerned with the nay-sayers. It was fun to be the Mayor of multiple locations in NH and even some highly competitive ones in Boston.
Some locations would even give you free drinks or discounts if you were the mayor. That was the plan anyways. Nashua certainly didn’t buy into this tech very quickly. Save for the local Starbucks (which was locked down by @KevinMic anyways), none of the 20+ locations I was the mayor of actually ever hooked me up.
Right about the same time the “Early Majority” group (from book Crossing the Chasm by Moore) of adopters started checking in around my home town, I began checking in less. It was a slow process that had a flipping point when I stopped checking in where I work at EF Tours (@EFTours) in Cambridge. The hotly contested building of over 850 people had about 5 regular FourSquare participants. Maintaining your position as #1 requires consistent check-ins and frankly, is tedious.
One day I just stopped. “Let someone else be the mayor today.”
I kept thinking about a criticism my friend and tech thought-leader, Aaron White (@AaronWhite), had made about social start-up Aadvark. The site allows you to ask & answer questions utilizing your social network. Aaron’s main point of contention was that there had to be a ‘reward’ for answering questions to keep the system going. Whether it was money, points, business referrals, or ICEEs from 7-11 some motivation was critical. Aadvark, to their credit, replied to Aaron’s keen observation and must have added the ‘reward factor’ to their equation because they’re being acquired by Google.
It’s this same criticism that I now have of FourSquare, GoWalla, and now Facebook Places. Why check-in? How is this going to benefit me? Where’s the ‘reward factor?’
Good ol’ Kevin, yes the guy who is the mayor of just about every Starbucks in NH, actually swung by a PetSmart when I checked in there during a puppy training class. He got to meet my starter-son Charlie, a wheaten terrier. That was it though.
I’ve realized that the only thing I’ve been doing while checking in on FourSquare is missing out on the experience of real life. It seems too, that I’m not alone.
Last week I tweeted that I was bored with FourSquare. The responses came rolling in:
- mizkerri Yup. RT @CaseyChesh: I’m getting bored with @FourSquare – Anyone else?
- MeganLeap @CaseyChesh No, but isn’t that was Facebook Places is for?
- Private – @CaseyChesh yes. But it seems much more popular here in the west coast (I’m vacationing)
- denimroad @CaseyChesh yea its a split.. I use it because of the social networking qualities but the rest of is not fun anymore
- NathanSpencer @CaseyChesh I feel bad. I only use 4sq to let ppl know where I am and even then not much anymore.
- jennifer_el I killed my account. RT @mizkerri: Yup. RT @CaseyChesh: I’m getting bored with @FourSquare – Anyone else?
- jennifer_el @CaseyChesh Not really. I mean, I kept forgetting to check in cause I was actually busy enjoying myself, so what was the point?
- MeganLeap @CaseyChesh Maybe! However, I’m going to stick to Foursquare. I don’t need to update ALL my Facebook friends with my whereabouts.
- Private – @mizkerri @CaseyChesh Yes and no. It’s still useful and kinda fun but the novelty has worn off.
- Drantis82 @CaseyChesh yeah, I quit a few weeks ago.
- YoavShapira @CaseyChesh I quit months ago
The prosecution rests. FourSquare and it’s friends GoWalla, Facebook Places, as they’re currently offered, are doomed. They need a reward factor for check-ins.
Will they find it? Maybe, but I see a much more interesting future for geolocation. Checking into a location is the start, much like floppy disks were so much cooler than using index cards with holes punched on them.
We’re seeing only the tip of the location-based innovation iceberg. Saving money more than social fun will be the driving force that helps this new tech bridge the gap from fad to phone.