Launched in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, FourSquare is driven by location. The mobile application allows users to “check-in” at restaurants, coffee shops, museums, club or wherever they may find themselves and connect with friends in the area. The idea for the apporiginated in 2003 when Crowley and Alex Rainert tested the concept of a check-in based social network with a mobile service called Dodgeball. The service was initially successful and was acquired by Google in 2005, but was unable to be sustained due to lack of support and eventually shut down in 2009.
With the death of Dodgeball, Crowley launched FourSquare with Naveen Selvadurai in 100 metro areas across the world on March 11, 2009. Based on a user’s location, they could check-in to local venues and nearby friends would be notified. In addition to the check-in service, local search and recommendations were a huge part of the app’s initial launch. Users could create a profile personalized with their “tastes,” or preferences in food styles or environmental aspects, and their tastes would be used to personalize what was recommended specifically for them. Users could also review locations they checked into and leave “tips,” or short messages about a location limited to 200 characters. Tips could be made more prominent by being “liked” by other users. If a user checked in to a particular venue multiple times, they could accumulate points that would eventually unlock rewards, badges and coupons. Frequent check-ins to one location could also allow a user to become “mayor” of that particular location, and some businesses chose to offer rewards or discounts to FourSquare mayors.
Upon its launch, FourSquare took off in these metro areas and eventually spread to places that were not so heavily populated. The service reached 7 million user IDs on February 21, 2011, less than two years after its launch. President Barack Obama even created an account in August of 2011.
FourSquare was successful during this time because it simplified social interaction and mobile venue-creation. Users could go to services like Yelp for phone numbers and longer reviews, but FourSquare offered concise reviews and let users see what locations they would enjoy based on their own personal tastes and tips and reviews left by friends.
With the app’s growing popularity among local businesses, FourSquare launched “FourSquare for Business” in early 2013, a separate mobile app that allowed a business to manage their listing on FourSquare. This provided a way for businesses to update business information as well as create “specials” and see which visitors frequented their venue the most.
While the app saw a surge in popularity in the U.S. around its initial launch, usage has since declined and the app has seen several major redesigns as a result. In May of 2014, FourSquare launched a separate app called Swarm as a companion app. The location sharing and social networking aspects of FourSquare were moved to Swarm, and FourSquare shifted its focus entirely to personalized local search. Swarm includes all of the location sharing, rewards and badges that characterized its predecessor and also incorporates a direct messaging feature and allows users to track their check-in history.
Today, more than 50 million user IDs are registered to FourSquare, and more than 50 percent of the service’s users are outside the United States. The post-Swarm version of FourSquare never shares a user’s location publicly and no longer allows users to check in. The local search app still allows users to leave tips and reviews and searches are still catered to what users specify as their tastes, but the app is now entirely dedicated to helping users find places to go based on where they’ve been and what they like.
1. Do you use or have you ever used FourSquare? (Personally, I had never even downloaded the app prior to this assignment.)
2. What do you think led to FourSquare’s decline in usage?
3. How can you see a service like FourSquare benefitting local businesses?
4. Do you think it was a smart move on FourSquare’s part to shift its focus to local search and transition the social networking features to a separate app? Why or why not?
5. How can you see FourSquare being used differently in a metropolitan area as opposed to a community like Arkadelphia?