Foursquare is “part friend finder, part social city guide, part nightlife game,” according to its Facebook page. It’s essentially a social network where you join, find and add friends, then begin “checking in” to different locations. You can check in by installing the Foursquare app on your Smartphone then searching for places nearby. The more you check in at a location, the closer you are to becoming the mayor of that place. You can also earn badges by checking in where lots of other people also checked in, or going out several nights in a row.
Foursquare officially launched in March 2009 at the Interactive portion of South by Southwest Music & Media Conference & Festival (SxSWi). The launch of Facebook Places this August was expected to shake the foundation of Foursquare, but instead Foursquare saw record sign up rates after the Places launch.
Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, says the purpose of his company’s efforts is to “help make cities easier to use and the world more interesting to explore.” I can attest to its usefulness after living in a new city – Chicago – this summer, and using Foursquare to find out where the next great tapas bar or pizza place was.
As 2010 has progressed, more businesses have begun to offer Foursquare specials. This summer retailers like the Gap and Kate Spade used Foursquare to reach consumers in a whole new way. I got 10% off the bill at one of my favorite restaurants just for checking in and showing my server. And my boss made it a point to check in each time he made a trip to the Starbucks downstairs from our office just so he could get the mayor special.
And just recently, Foursquare launched its universities program that’s meant to help college students explore their campuses. Mashable also put out an article on how location-based apps can help universities in a variety of ways, fostering school spirit and driving revenue being just two of them.
However for every positive there is a negative, and one thing about Foursquare that irks some people is broadcasting their locations to the world at large. This has led some people to believe that location-based services put people in a position to be robbed or stalked. Foursquare combated that by saying they give users the option to push their whereabouts to more public forums like Facebook and Twitter (on Foursquare you can only see a user’s check-ins if you are friends within the network). This is a detailed layout of what Foursquare shares with your friends and with the wider Foursquare community.
It’s hard to tell if Foursquare has reached ‘critical mass’ yet, but it seems to be the most popular of all location-based apps. The social implications of Foursquare remain to be seen – it could be used as a powerful tool in propelling great causes, but it could also become insignificant as something new quickly takes over, as was the case of MySpace and Facebook. Only time, and the evolution of technology, will show us if this rapidly growing tool can hold its own as new players emerge on the location-based tech scene.