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With Swarm app, Foursquare about much more than checking in

Al Sacco | May 21, 2014
Last week location-based social network Foursquare released a new mobile app and broke its service into two components. The new "Swarm" app for iOS and Android (a Windows Phone version is expected later this summer) is for check-ins and friend-finding, while the evolved foursquare app will no longer features check-in functionality and focuses instead on local search.

Like it or not, Foursquare is changing. That's a good thing. Foursquare has kind of stagnated during the past couple of years; it doesnt do much that it could not two years ago, with the exception of some location-aware features.

If Foursquare wants to grow its user base, and its business, it needs to grow its service accordingly. That means not only adding new features to engage current users, but also expanding it user base. The very nature of Foursquare — sharing potentially sensitive location details — turns off many people. By separating what is inarguably a valuable local-search database from the check-in features, Foursquare makes its service more appealing to the folks who simply don't want another social network but would welcome a better local search app.

One App Store review caught my eye because it suggested Foursquare would just become another Yelp-like search option. What sets Foursquare apart is the quality of information in its vast location database, with more than 60 million venues, and its simple but effective rating system.

Of course, such a significant change in Foursquare's focus could drastically change the kind of users it attracts. It should be recognized, too, that Foursquare's database is what it is at least in part due to the contributions of its users — and its Super Users, who work (for free) to maintain accuracy.

It might take a while for loyal Foursquare users to get used to the two apps. Some folks might miss the features that are being removed — but those will, of course, be replaced with new features, including Neighborhood Sharing, Plans and a search function that lets you search and easily browser your entire check-in history.

These changes take some of the fun out of Foursquare, but they also make it a service that could appeal to a much wider user base. Based on what I see in the current version of Swarm and the Foursquare preview, I'm optimistic about the social network's future.


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