A look at Foursquare – Google Wave syndrome?

I write this article in the wake of me removing my account from Foursquare.  After 3 months of usage, I think I’ve given it a fair “crack of the whip”.

How many social networking products do you need? How much of your life is really required to be on them?

Social networking, the term which everyone from über geeks to the technically inept all understand.   The premise is simple, get your life, wrap it up into paragraphs of text, season with a few photographs and links then throw onto the Net for all to see, make some friends, occasionally get trolled and hope that all of this isn’t construed by your boss as enough material to sack you.

Scepticism aside, I actually like social networking tools, Identi.ca is probably my product of choice, but whilst many of my contacts refuse to move over from Twitter, I have to keep it “on the books”.

When Google Wave came out, I was one of the many who “jumped in” and its a shame it never achieved the uptake of other products out there, the idea of “live typing” was a feature that set it aside somewhat from others and the ability to collaborate online was a great feature that I was sure would be a hit with users.

In my view Google Wave suffered not because the product was bad (although the method of searching for Wave’s was not exactly user-friendly or accessible for the casual user) but because I think, it was released at the wrong time – too early because people are still taking up (and raving about Twitter) or in the same vein too late because Facebook and Twitter have already entrenched themselves in the market place.  Social Networking is not just about having a good product, it’s about having the users there in the first place to be social with.

So now we look at Foursquare, to which I was a member for about 3 months.  For those that don’t know, Foursquare was a product which allowed you to visit a place, “book in” and then depending on who out of all its users had booked in at that location the most, would award the title of Mayor.  Whilst this may not sound very interesting, certain shops/businesses would offer special deals for the Mayor of their shops and an example I saw was that Dominoes Pizza in Hendon offered a free pizza every Wednesday to its Mayor.

In addition to the mayor title, you were awarded medals for performing certain tasks, for example booking in over a certain number of times in a day, being a member for a certain amount of time, all of which tried to feed the need some users have of “proving” their social status with awards and effectively a score.  Everyone likes to look successful, the medal/mayor system tried to accommodate that.

I saw great potential with Foursquare, if more companies had jumped onboard then the promotion prospects /advertising deals would have been rather lucrative for Foursquare creators.  Unfortunately with Twitter/Facebook seen by the masses as the defacto networking products at the moment, Foursquare would also see competition come at the hands of Facebook Places.

Like Google Wave, Foursquare to me seemed to suffer the same issue, if you can’t attract the users, how can they been social and more importantly, when established products offer the same service as you, what uniqueness to you bring to the table to make people want to have another login/password to manage?

It should be noted that Foursquare offered the ability to communicate with other social networking products (and communicate your location via email to your friends) but I wonder what people on my contact list thought when they were spammed by email every time I “booked in”.  Some days I could have over 16 check ins, that’s a lot of mail for something which really is not of great interest to anyone else but myself.

So where does Foursquare go from here?  I would suggest that an attempt to take on the established Facebook would be rather futile.  Funnily enough, I don’t have a Facebook account either and feel that my random musing and links to my articles are all I require my “social net presence” to be, both of which I hasten to add are perfectly accommodated within Twitter/Identi.ca.  My suggestion now for Foursquare would be a joining with Twitter, where its growing user base and mainstream popularity will at least offer it a chance of competing with Facebook/Places, which really doesn’t have to try too hard since its established user base is already there.

So for me and Foursquare, so long….until the next unique product makes an appearance and in my haste to try something new gives me yet another account to manage, lasting until I realize that I never really needed it anyway.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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