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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Google Crushes Its Complements

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Just was reading about Google Maps, specifically their turn-by-turn, and its impact on the maps market.

As many people know, there are 2 main players in the map market: Tele Atlas and NavTeq.  Google licensed both of them for Google Maps for years.  While they licensed, they also sent cars all around the nation gathering their own data.  These two guys, Tele Atlas and NavTeq, were the only game in town.  TomTom, the leading portable GPS device maker, wanted to control their own destiny and agreed to buy Tele Atlas for US$2.7 billion. And Nokia, worried that they would lose access to the coveted map agreed to buy NavTeq for a cool $8.1 billion.

All was good until Google dropped a bomb.  About six weeks ago, they went independent and didn’t rely on either for their map data.  And then about a month ago they announced their own turn-by-turn navigation would be available in the Android OS.  Now anybody from BMW to GM to Samsung can provide turn-by-turn by simply using Google’s OS.

The big losers here are RIM and iPhone. They either have to not allow that access or pay a large royalty.  And Windows Mobile and Symbian are in an even more difficult situation as paying to embed this data could be more than the license fee they get from handset manufacturers.  This all assumes, of course, that users really demand this feature. If they do, Google’s really in the catbird seat. lessthanfree

People will complain that this is incredibly anti-competitive.  That Google is using it’s money making machine to unfairly compete in the map market.  Well, the story is even worse than that.  To get carriers to use Android, Google offers a cut on the search revenue that the phones produce.  So not only is Android free but it’s actually paying providers to use it.  Some people are calling it “less than free.”  Google will go beyond cell phones with this strategy.  Any netbook manufacturer (Dell, Sony, etc.) will get a cut of search revenue by building on Android or Chrome instead of Windows or Linux.  It’s tough to compete with “less than free.”

It makes you think of the world of complements.  Chris Dixon discusses Google and how its complement are the web browser and the OS.  The best thing you can do as a company is drive your complements to become commodities.  Well there’s no better way than driving their prices to be below zero.  Kudos Google,  I’m impressed.