Foursquare Swarming and the death of the Mayorship

I’m a big FourSquare user and i have been since they launched. I think I was one of the original 10k users to sign up for the service. Looking at my profile, i can see that i’ve done over 5700 checkin and am the mayor of over 20 venues.  I’m all over it. 

I learned a few weeks ago that 4S was going to change up their business.  They discovered that there are two distinct personas that use their app:  (1) the user who checks in a lot and views where their friends are; (2) the user who uses the app to find places to go and search for tips. They found that they were constantly limiting each personas experience so they could wedge both into the service. They also recognized the rise of “App Constellations” where multiple services such as Facebook, Dropbox and others are producing multiple apps that deep link to each other (read this good Fred Wilson blog post about it). So, they announced that they are splitting their business into two apps: one for the checkin user (like me) called Swarm and another for the venue researcher called Foursquare (which will compete directly with Yelp).

Swarm screenshots

I like this change.  Since it happened, i found myself using Swarm a lot and because it didn’t have the other stuff in there, it’s more streamlined and easier to use.  They also were able to add a few extra features like “Where are you going to be?” because they have the room.  In short, I love the new strategy and like the new app.  

Also, the mayor is being killed off. From the foursquare blog

Mayors 2.0. We wanted to get back to a fun way to compete with your friends instead of all 50,000,000 people who are on Foursquare. With these new mayorships, if you and a couple friends have been checking in to a place, the person who has been there the most lately gets a crown sticker. So you and your friends can compete for the mayorship of your favorite bar, without having to worry about the guy who is there every. single. day. Mayors 2.0 means that places can have many different mayors, one for each circle of friends, instead of just a single mayor at each place.

I am mayor at 20+ places and found daily enjoyment in that fact. This change is a bummer. I guess it reflects society’s need for everybody to be a winner, which is also stupid. But I understand why they’re doing it, but i also hate it.  It’d be nice to have a global mayor. 

As a side note: I’ve currently checked in to Illegal Pete’s for 79 consecutive weeks.  I feel like that’s some sort of record. 

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Some Predictions

With a new year (i know we’re a month old already) I’ve been wondering more about what the future holds.  I have a few thoughts i’d like to share and get your thoughts.  They are some prediction of the technology space.  Here they go: 

More and More Social Networks. 
I wrote in 2007 when Facebook released “The Platform” that they would take over the web.  Their product updates since then have great and as a result, they’ve been killing it for years and been gobbling up users (approaching 1 Billion now).  However, this year I saw more and more social networks emerge. You have Path, Instagram, Foursquare, FoodSpotting and others. It’s easy for me to see now that in the future everyone will be on Facebook but that’s not where everyone will share.  It will be fragmented.  Depending on what you share (Food, Books, Photos, etc.), you may be someplace else and sharing with a smaller group.  Facebook will continue to be a huge company but their days of being the only game in town are numbered. Social is now not a facebook-only feature. Everyone has it.  The future is more about what your social activity revolves around.  I’ve started to tell people that “facebook is a fad” and it’s old news.  That’s not entirely true but it’s more true now than ever. 

The Future of Local Publishing 
More and more people are trying to get into local publishing.  The local newspaper has seen its classifieds, sports, world news and national news all get marginalized by other outlets (TV, internet, twitter, etc.).  All that’s left is local.  I used to be bullish on Patch, but that’s waning as i don’t see them innovating and it seems to be too big and too expensive an operation at each location.  That may change though.  With that said, here’s my prediction for what wins in a local community:  

You have a site, this could be a WordPress site or Tumblr or whatever.  It’s managed by one to three super-engaged people who are not pulling a salary (or a minimal one).  They do two things.  First, they curate all the news from papers, blogs and other local sites that are reporting in their community. Second, they accept via twitter and their site submissions of links and news.  They curate both of them and then spit it out back to their followers on their site and on Facebook and Twitter.  This becomes the best real-time source of news.  

This works because it is impossible for one source to aggregate all the information themselves (what newspapers used to do) but it is all being covered by other people who are willing to share.  The new local publisher is a connector of local interests to other web sites.  I could see this being just a twitter feed or a Tumblr blog.  Whatever the destination is, it’s heavily conversational and constantly curated. 

Just some predictions i have.  Would love to hear your thoughts. 

FourSquare is Pulling Away…

I wrote a post 9 months ago about whether FourSquare or Quora were going to break out as great companies. Many in the office chose Quora and i chose FourSquare. I didn’t know anything at the time, but i just had a hunch.Foursquare vs. Quora

I’m still not correct.  Quora is doing really well still, but more and more people are recognizing Foursquare as a pioneer.  In fact, yesterday, Anil Dash wrote a great post about why it’s such a compelling company, stating:

[Foursquare] has blossomed into truly impressive execution: Foursquare is the one startup that’s doing the most remarkable job of any company out there in product strategy and product creation.

He sites these 6 main points as to why:

  1. Core platform
  2. Reliable iteration
  3. Technical competence
  4. Design innovation
  5. Thoughtful business model
  6. Meaningful API’s

It’s a good read, check it out.

Foursquare vs. Quora: which would you invest in?

I had an interesting debate at lunch the other day with Toby about which company we’re more bullish on between Foursquare and Quora. To paraphrase Hansel, both are “so hot right now.” Both raised money at a very high valuation (Foursquare raised $20 on $95 million and Quora  11 on 86), yet both provide reasons to be skeptical.

With Foursquare you have an extremely popular mobile location app.  However, most people don’t “get it” – as in they don’t see reasons for checking in everywhere they go, don’t live in a dense-enough location where it serendipidous run-ins are possible, nor do they want to share that information.

Then there’s Quora.  It has some obsessed users who are contributing very original and valuable content.  The online Q&A industry is a great segment of the web but there are questions of whether the site ever get attention from mainstream users.

For me, my money is on Foursquare.  It’s one of the few mobile apps that capitalize on a user’s geopgraphic location.  It’s fun to use and has a lot of untapped potential.  The integration with gas stations and Starwood hotels are just the tip of the iceberg for them.  I do feel that only 10 or 5 percent of users who register end up regularly using the service but as they continue to get good deals to entice not only new user acquisition but engagement they will grow and be successful.   One criticism i have heard is that Facebook places will take out Foursquare.  I don’t think so and ironically actually wrote a response of why on Quora.  In fact, you can see from this graph how FS’s growth has increased since then.

That’s not to say that i’m anti-Quora. I’m not.  I think it’s one of the best web UI’s I’ve ever seen and I do find it useful.  I just wonder about it’s mainstream appeal.  So, if both had a $100 million valuation and i had to put my cash on one, I’d place it on Foursquare.  What about you?

SXSW Review

Granted i was only in Austin for 2 days of the South by Soutwest festival, but here’s my take on it.

SXSW has now become a Spring Break for nerds. Similar to if you went to Daytona Beach for a real spring break and how you’d get sick of tequila and dance music, people at SXSW get overdosed of Apps, Twitter and the words “social” and “media”. With so many people shouting in your face, it had to tell what anyone is saying.

That said, here are some highlights:

  1. The group messaging apps were out in full effect.  GroupMe, Beluga and others were there.  These are fun apps.  My favorite is GroupMe and if you haven’t tried it – i recommend you do.  It’s a good way to keep in touch with people.   Here’s a good roundup of all the group messaging apps.
  2. Uber Cabs were everywhere.  They were the big winners of the show.  It was impossible to attend this year’s event and not hear of Uber.    Fantastic marketing job done by them.
  3. The gaming Keynote by Scavengr CEO was the talk of the weekend.  it’s nice to see a talk that’s well put-together and stimulating.  Gaming is in lots of apps, and with good reason.  If you can find the video of this, you should watch it (and tell me where it is so i can see it too).

Foursquare vs. Facebook Places

I am a huge Foursquare users. I registered the day that it launched at SXSW, I’m mayor of sixteen places and have checked in over 450 days. Whenever i go to a place, i immediately think of checking in. I’ve also tried out all of the competitors, such as Loopt and Gowalla. While those are ok, Foursquare was the best for me.

So, when Facebook launcehd “Places” i was curious to give it a shot. And after just a few days, I think it’s going to be a viable competitor and will keep many mainstream users from ever using Foursquare. Here’s why:

There are three reasons why people use Foursquare:

  1. Socially. To tell their friends where they are so they can join them.
  2. As a game. To become “mayor” of a place and to check in more than other people
  3. MyWare. To log where in the world you’ve been

The first reason – to connect with your friends – is the most powerful and is the reason most people use a service like this. The main issue with Foursquare is that not many of their friends are on it, so this didn’t happen for most. It only worked this way for power users and early adopters who have other power users and early adopters as friends (people like me). This is where FB Places shine. The first day of using it, i had more friends on it than on Foursquare and it was immediately more useful for me. I could actually see where many of my friends were. Foursquare never did this well.

The second reason – to play as a game and to become a mayor – doesn’t work for FB Places. There is no game in Facebook. It’s just to connect. I can see rewards happening in the future the same way that some restaurants or shops post messages on their FB pages for free coffee or cupcakes. I actually do miss this on FB. I found myself not checking into a place this weekend for a second time because i asked myself, “what’s the point?” I knew it would annoy my friends and i was leaving soon anyway. I checked on Foursquare but not FB.

The third reason will never happen on Facebook but will on Foursquare. You can see my stats page here. It’s great to see and view all the places i’ve been. Will most users like this? Not at all. I’m a rare breed in my love of tracking myself.

To sum up, i really think FB Places is going to crush it. Despite Friday being the biggest day in Foursquare history and their claim that the rising tide will raise all ships, I think that unless Foursquare can continue to out innovate Facebook, I think FB will leave Foursquare behind in the dust. Once again, Facebook proves taht although it’s large and has an amazingly large userbase, they aren’t afraid to make big changes and innovate. This is why they are the internet king right now. Did anyone think that Yahoo! if they couldn’t buy Foursquare would actually build something. Yeah right.