Foursquare “Swarm” Is a Bad Idea from the Start

I am likely a rarity in the world of Foursquare. Since I began using the social media location sharing platform back in 2010, I am one of those people that checks-in everywhere. Literally, anywhere I go, my Foursquare app is open and primed for stalker-ready access to my current whereabouts. I’m the mayor of so many places on Foursquare, I can barely keep track of my extensive virtual kingdom. 

So, when news broke yesterday that the company would change its focus, re-designing Foursquare from the ground-up to compete better with Yelp, I admit I was highly disappointed.

Soon, Foursquare will completely remove check-ins from its app, and will release “Swarm”, which will function similar to an instant messaging app, and show which of your friends are nearby and open the opportunity for live dialogue. Foursquare, then, will be completely dedicated to local reviews, discovery & exploration.

Ugh. On both accounts.

First off, I have no objection to Foursquare trying to compete with Yelp. After all, it’s been collecting data from users for years now, so it just makes sense to utilize that first-party insight.

But, the idea of ditching the unique selling point that brought them this wealth of data is quite surprising. Granted, with Swarm, they’ll still be collecting local user data– however, this requires that long-time fans of Foursquare will complete the migration to the new app. Why Foursquare isn’t just leaving things the way they currently are, and doing more on the back-end to create local pages for businesses that rank highly in search, is beyond me.

Then, there’s idea that anyone out there is interested in “location-based messaging”. If SnapChat (as useless as I find it) proves anything, people don’t care as much about where people are located, they just want the ability to communicate easily. And, let’s not forget that people worldwide can already accomplish this, through the multitude of apps that already exist in this space.

Instead, what Foursquare/Swarm sounds like to me is a way out. If needed, should one show more success than the other, the company can easily nix one project to focus on the bread-winner. I’d argue, though, they’re doing this at the expense of their core user-base, which, possibly, isn’t going to care about either product enough as a separate entity.

While Foursquare check-ins still work as of today, and Swarm has yet to be made available, that should change in the coming weeks.

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