foursquare

The new Foursquare 8.0, just released today and after unbundling, is of particular interest to me as it was basically what feecha versions 1 and 2 tried to do starting from two years ago. Feecha had a broader scope: it wasn’t just about food and places but about news, events and activities too. Our implementation was also a lot less structured with a feed approach, instead of the lists and directories you see in Foursquare.

The similarities are there: Default content is about what’s around the user. Users’ experiences were personalized by who they follow and what interests (i.e. tastes on Foursquare) they have. They get alerted when something relevant and interesting is nearby without needing to open the app. Foursquare’s “Tips” section was basically our main news feed and you level up (i.e. expertise on Foursquare) when people appreciate your contributions.

Sadly, we gave up on that ambition when it came to version 3 because of one key reason: we just couldn’t get enough good data. We relied on users to create useful content and that proved exceedingly difficult. Foursquare 8.0 — at least for food and places, and with their archive of 55 million tips — is executing that vision a lot better than we could.

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Foursquare is pivoting to a focus on place recommendations – e.g. restaurants and cafes – and this made us wonder how the app actually stacks up to the competition already there. Food is the biggest category and since we are in Singapore and food is inherently local, we examine the competition here: Yelp, Hungrygowhere, SoShiok, 8 Days Eat, Pickat and Burpple in addition to Foursquare.

We pit all seven apps against each other, reality game style, to see who comes out on top. The answer may surprise you.

Note: We tested the iPhone versions of all seven apps.

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Recently, Foursquare had split itself into two: one new app, Swarm, to focus on check-ins and seeing friends’ locations; and a new recommendations app to compete with Yelp. The latter will keep the Foursquare name.

This division makes no sense. We’re not even talking about the wisdom behind unbundling, although that’s still questionable. Founder Dennis Crowley made that division because he thinks recommendations is the future and he wants to give it the best possible start, thus inheriting the Foursquare namesake and its 40 million user base. This is success theater because what makes more sense is for recommendations to be the new app, and for Foursquare to still be about check-ins.

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When Facebook first started, the homepage was essentially your profile.  You navigated by viewing a friend’s profile; and then a friend’s friend’s profile and so on.  Facebook was about jumping from one profile to another.

Then Mark Zuckerberg debuted the news feed.  Instead of having to check each person’s profile to see what’s new with that person, your friends’ updates were all pooled into one page.  People then consumed the news feed regularly, and only visited an actual profile when they wanted to go in depth on a person.  This was a fundamental shift in how people used Facebook and it’s hard to imagine going back the old way.

Profiles are static while the news feed is dynamic.

Profiles are “what is” while the news feed is about “what’s changed.”

Profiles are X, the news feed is ΔX.

I hope this distinction makes sense, because I’m about to apply it to mobile phones.

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