There must be way more of these people that I had imagined since Foursquare now boasts over two million users. Impressive, yes - but feeble in comparison to facebook’s half a billion throng. Other than the one individual who introduced me to it and my sister-in-law’s sympathy ‘friending’, I don’t see any other friends, acquaintances or colleagues giving it a try. For someone with 702 LinkedIn connections, 156 facebook friends, a bunch of blog and Twitter followers – things don’t look too good for Foursquare in my cyber portfolio.
But in spite of Marc Andreessen’s backing, I still think the only viable Foursquare model is one that requires less activity to participate. I’m already at the mall, so why do I have to go on my phone, start up Foursquare, find the mall and check in? I should be able to preset the app on my phone to do certain ‘frictionless’ things based on my location – which it seems to know already. But that’s a very slippery slope to travel!
The incentive to participate is also weak. Who cares about a cheesy badge or two? If I’m going to let a business know that I’m in its vicinity, I want discounts! I want rewards! It’s why I take the time to always add my frequent flier number to my airline reservations – even if I know that it’s unlikely that I’ll ever meet even the minimum requirements for a flight reward. The least I will get is an offer for a magazine or two in return for Air Nippon wiping out those 3,956 miles that have been hanging out there for eons.
In the years to come, I believe that location-based services (LBS) will play a much more substantial role in our lives. I'm just not convinced that Foursquare and its imitators provide a clear path to the mainstream. We’re in the 1995 Classmates.com days of social networking, but there’s some light at the end of the tunnel - The Wall Street Journal and a few other newspapers have already added the Foursquare button to allow people, when reading a restaurant review or other cultural coverage on WSJ.com, to click a button to add the venue(s) mentioned in the article to a ‘Foursquare to-do list’, along with a tip written by a WSJ editor and a link back to the original article. This to-do list idea has got to have a place in the future of LBS.
So even though I’m not yet a true believer, I have no desire be a detractor and will continue to check in from time to time in the hope that someone will offer me the deal of the century.