Shane BarnhillThursday,6 June 2013

The Snap:

Foursquare has evolved significantly since its buzzy 2009 launch at SXSW. Through key partnershipsUI changes, and even alignment with the Quantified Self movement, the company has managed to grow its user base — even as it struggles to find a viable long-term revenue model. But the most important evolutionary changes for Foursquare are those that position it to compete with Yelp as a utility for local search recommendations. The latest move in this regard is Foursquare’s release of “super-specific” search filters; as the Foursquare blog notes, “When you filter by price, ‘haven’t checked in,’ ‘friends have checked in,’ or ‘open now,’ you can be as choosy as you want to be” when searching for a variety of venues.

The Download:

First of all: good for Foursquare. The company is figuring out a higher-revenue business model (or, more accurately, jockeying for an acquisition by Yahoo), and its Explore feature is consistently better than Yelp as a mobile recommendations engine. Foursquare’s search feature is just plain good. It’s easy to use, and venue recommendations are better because of their social context. When I’m looking for a bite to eat while out of town — or even locally — it’s helpful to not only see the places that my friends tend to frequent, but also the comments that they’ve left at venues.

But here’s the thing. Yelp — Foursquare’s target — has never been an “every day” app for me (is it for anyone?). I use Yelp once every few weeks or so — or less. By contrast, Foursquare has owned a prime piece of real estate on the home screen of every smartphone that I’ve ever owned. That’s because Foursquare started out being more fun than useful; initially, it was all about checking into venues to share with friends, earn badges, battle for mayorships and look for promotions. But those uses are tough to monetize, and thus it’s necessary for Foursquare to train its users to adopt behaviors in which sponsored venue listings (aka ads) will seem like a natural part of the search experience.

So yes, I get it. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” and Foursquare is no different. But it’s just not much fun anymore, and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Stephanie Schwab has been has been bearish on Foursquare for years, and my friend Liz Kelley stepped away from Foursquare months ago, writing, “But after spending a couple of years on Foursquare, I grew bored of it. Why should I keep coming back?” (And check out the 1:23 to 2:41 section of the video below, where Foursquare’s co-founder Dennis Crowley alludes to this issue).

As of today, then, Foursquare has been bumped from my phone’s home screen (hello again, my old Tumblr friend!), which means it will be largely “out of sight, out of mind” on a daily basis. I will tap into those “super-specific” search features occasionally when I want to play Game of Cones or find a good burrito, of course. I will also still see pop-up check-in notifications from my friends, and thus I’ll be reminded to check in every now and then myself — especially when I’m at a particularly fun event or location. Furthermore, I’ll continue to monitor Foursquare’s changes for professional reasons; after all, it’s part of my job to understand how to best use apps and other technologies.

But will I use Foursquare on a daily basis anymore? Nope. At least not right now. Instead, I’m checking out.

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Hat Tips:

TechCrunch, QuartzAdAge, CNET, Image Credit: Flickr


  1. […] Foursquare has been one of my favorite apps for years. But the app has evolved away from its roots as a mobile social network into more of a Yelp-like mobile recommendations engine. Consequently, I’m checking out of Foursquare — at least as a daily user. Read more on The Snap Download… […]

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