Quick Take on Foursquare
I’ve heard so much hype about Foursquare that I had to give it a try, so I downloaded the Blackberry App and have been playing it with for a few days. Here are my quick initial impressions:
- I give them an A+ for what I call “minimal implementation of core concept.” Lots of startups have a core concept that needs rounding-out over time and they get confused about out how much core vs. how much rounding-out they should do in the first release. I believe that for breakthrough products/services your first release should be all core, little round-out. Foursquare implements this philosophy well: this is about friends and their locations, period. The app can’t even help you edit your profile picture (e.g., mine got all distorted), so I had to edit it myself on my PC and then re-upload it. But that’s perfect. Having a nice picture upload, crop, and edit function is precisely what you don’t want a location-based services startup focusing on.
- I initially wondered why you’d need Foursquare. After all, if I want to find my friends I can theoretically do that through Facebook status updates already. For I example, I can status “eating lunch at the Red Eye Grill” and my friends can notice that I’m there. The problem is, of course, in an information-overloaded world of tweets, Facebook statuses, LinkedIn statuses, and other social network exhaust, these where-I-am status updates are easily lost amid the update flotsam. What’s more, having the text “Red Eye Grill” and knowing that its a restaurant in Manhattan at 890 7th Ave which is at (40.76506, -73.98031) are two different things. The former is pretty much useless without the additional of human context, the latter can be geo-searched, mapped, etc.
- Because Foursquare knows where you are from your phone’s GPS and because you can check in to places you go, Foursquare can very easily determine who among your friends are at the same venue as you (think: a big crowded nightclub) or simply who is nearby. I can envision good uses for that.
- Frankly, I don’t get the whole “mayor” thing — i.e., given users can become the mayor of a venue. For example, Jason M is the mayor of local pub Pudley’s as well as 12 other venues. Mark Logic engineer Pete A. has beaten me to becoming the mayor of Mark Logic and I don’t know how to unseat him. Right now, I view this — like badges — as harmless fun and silliness.
- I find the Blackberry application slow.
- In the privacy department, this one creeps me out: I think the Foursquare application on my phone might be periodically beaming my GPS coordinates to the Foursquare central without me knowing about it. For the first few days, I assumed that Foursquare only knew where I was when I checked-in somewhere. Now, when I go to my profile page, it seems to always know where I am. I’ll watch this more closely and then give an update. Note that one common criticism against location-based social networks is the PleaseRobMe problem, and I wonder if this is accompanied by a PleaseKillMyBattery problem.
- I like the name Foursquare, though my kids had to tell me it was also the name of a playground game.
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