Yalim's Lodge

Foursquare is in Trouble

When Forrester CEO George Colony, thrashed Foursquare as nonsense, Fred Wilson posted his talk on his web site and commented that “it shows he doesn’t use the product and has no idea what they are about and where they are headed”, when I asked him about his take on Mr. Colony’s view.

However, Mr. Colony might have a point, although he was unnecessarily harsh making it. After several months spending time on Foursquare, I sadly realized that I can get better value out of other web sites.

There were three ways that I hoped to get value.

Recommendations When I Travel
First and foremost, I was hoping that it would help me find cool places when I am traveling. Foursquare did deliver on this promise to some extent but sadly TripAdvisor (with a dash of Lonely Planet) is a lot more useful when abroad. It simply has more information. More importantly, it has more information in a language that I can understand. The few, if any, comments in Foursquare about a place are usually in the local language that I don’t understand. In Istanbul, the city where I live, this benefit diminishes because I can already find out about new places through other means.

My second reason was to keep a record of good times I spend with friends and family and share them with others. You know…check-in, attach a picture and a few lines of comments…Facebook with check-in along with the Timeline is much better for this purpose. The level of interaction with friends after you do a check-in is also so much higher in Facebook.

Run into Friends
Third was to find out if a friend is nearby. This happens so rarely that it’s not worth to keep checking in. I actually run into more people without the help of Foursquare than with it. Besides Facebook has the same functionality as well.

So despite desperately trying to find a place for Foursquare in my iPhone, I just could not justify it. Sadly, it lost the battle for my time to TripAdvisor+Lonely Planet when travelling and to Facebook when at home.

Check-in as a feature to the overall Facebook experience is much much better than what Foursquare offers. This makes me think that Foursquare is in somewhat of a trouble. I worry that there may be well established players at the destination they are headed.

Yalım K. Gerger (@yalimgerger)

  • Erik Giberti

    Instant deals is one reason to keep it. Saving a few bucks on a place you were going anyway (at least in the US) is great!

  • http://www.iconfinder.net Martin LeBlanc, Iconfinder.com

    Outside US you don’t see any deals for FoursSquare users.

  • http://twitter.com/Kruptein Darragh van Tichelen

    in belgium there are some deals :)

    P.S: love iconfinder ;)

  • http://www.iconfinder.net Martin LeBlanc, Iconfinder.com

    Thanks :-D

  • http://twitter.com/stuinzuri Stu Thompson

    I saw a deal here in Zurich. Absolutely useless, though…

  • Nirzar

    some are using custom deals, like u manually show them checking in and they will offer a deal.

  • http://twitter.com/alsothings Ben Fields

    I used to find this to be the case (in London, where I live) however lately there are lots of instant deals around here, I think they recently ramped up sales in the UK or something

  • Aubs

    The trouble with this entire perspective is that because one person can’t see the value in Foursquare doesn’t mean that the site or the company is in trouble. Facebook’s check-in feature is so sadly depreciated and neglected by Facebook developers – even after Facebook partnered with Foursquare to build it, that they’ve even said their check-in and deals services are on the back burner. Regardless of the anecdotal “engagement is much higher” comment above, it’s so rarely used by Facebook users that the feature is near-laughable. I expect them both to be gone within a year.

    Google’s own check-in services are also underwhelming, mostly because they know that they’ll need to provide value on the order of check-in deals and incentives to make people check in (badges, awards, leaderboards, etc) to engage people enough to use it. In those areas, no one wants to challenge Foursquare because they know they can’t at this point.

    The TripAdvisor+Lonely Planet combination requires a: an iPhone and b: two services to do the same thing that one already does on multiple platforms, so while the experience may be more complete, it’s hardly an alternative most people would entertain. Agreed that Foursquare has work to do in this area though, but that’s more proof that the company has room to maneuver and opportunities to grow into, not that they’re faltering.

    Ultimately, the points here are valid when viewed through the lens of one user who clearly loves Foursquare enough to wish greater things for it, but someone similarly disconnected from the majority of Foursquare users who enjoy it for what it is – a social game that adds some value to the traveling and entertainment experience with check-in bonuses, mayorships, discounts, and competitive play with friends. If Foursquare were to reach too far into the travel arena as proposed above, it would undoubtedly lose its edge in the social arena from which it spawned, and still dominates.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/kevinfairchild Kevin

    So, after spending “several months” using a service a lot of us have been using for years, you’ve decided maybe it’s in trouble…?


    At the end of the day, Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude, etc. all have their own niches when it comes to geo-location services and can’t really be compared like this.

    Your needs are different from mine. And mine are different from others.

    If you look at the time Foursquare has been around and you look at the amount of usage it gets, though, it’s obviously still doing something right.

  • Anonymous

    In Holland you see more and more specials (which is what “deals” you mention are called). Check out http://www.4sqmap.com/specials to easily find them: just drag the red marker to anywhere(. Foursquare itself is more geared to letting you stuff around where your mobile phone or laptop is at the moment.)

    I also like Foursquare as a record of where I was. Used to use Plazes.com for that before Foursquare. What I mean is answer questions I sometimes have, like: “When was I at [place] last?”, “What was that nice cheese shop in Brussels called again?”, etc. Again, Foursquare itself does not make it easy to find this stuff, but the data is there and 4sqmap.com makes it easily accessible.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    I worry that they will not scale to an even larger community than they currently have. I mean my mom uses Facebook. I can picture her using Twitter. She will never use Foursquare.

  • Anonymous

    There are critics of everything new. I saw If you watched Dennis Crowley, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fVrOf4bBrWo Foursquare talk at the same conference Le Web which Mr. Colony spoke and you will get an idea where it is headed. The future looks good for Foursquare. Who knows the Foursquare of the future may look like the location services in the movie Minority Report, that’s what I think based on Dennis talk.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    I don’t know. When I was in U.S. I got free wings at Hooter’s from Foursquare. :-) . Will I ever go back to Hooter’s for the four free pieces of wings? Will this encourage me to look for deals in Foursquare around me? I doubt it.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Also, I don’t think Facebook deprecated check-in as much as you think. It actually made check-in more obvious in the UI. It’s pretty neat.

  • Ahmetalpbalkan

    Wow, I didn’t know you are living in Istanbul. That’s great. Thanks for the post, I’m amazed.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    I missed that talk. Thank you for pointing that out. I will watch it now.

  • Joe

    “So, after spending “several months” using a service a lot of us have been using for years, you’ve decided maybe it’s in trouble…?

    Oh, snarkiness, neat.

  • Anonymous

    “If you look at the time Foursquare has been around and you look at the amount of usage it gets, though, it’s obviously still doing something right.”

    I’d agree if Foursquare actually released MAU and DAU stats that showed actual usage. They certainly have a lot of *users* but I don’t see any evidence of widespread *usage*

  • Rush Frisby

    foursqaure must be running on fumes. they’ll be gone soon.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I’ve been living in Istanbul since 2003.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I’ve been living in Istanbul since 2003.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    I watched the video. Some of the things he mentions are interesting. It seems like their only hope is to sell information to shop owners about their customers. This might indeed work and make an excellent business. However, it requires a lot of users to use Foursqaure. A LOT. At 15 million users, which is incredible by the way, they seem to be still far off from making this happen though.

  • http://twitter.com/SriniKadamati Srini Kadamati

    Interesting article but I’ll have to disagree.

    Foursquare incentivizes people to check in & they’re collecting lots and lots of data around people’s behavior, something Facebook isn’t doing around check-ins. Foursquare is a unique tracking service because of its API & the data they possess. If I want to mine my data on Foursquare to discover interesting trends (for ex. I drank coffee 48 times this year damn), I can do that easily with a Python shell. Good luck doing that with the FB API.

    As Dennis Crowley said, Foursquare’s goal is to evolve into something bigger and better. Check-ins are just a means to an end for now for user acquisition, just like how Google was once ONLY a search engine and how Facebook initially was just a cleaner MySpace (now it’s much more than that, its a behemoth).

  • Guest2

    You miss on the fact that a lot of people are turning away from Facebook. Every month that passes it becomes more apparent that Facebook is simply out for your information, so they can sell it. I for one don’t enjoy using facebook, and refuse to use it’s extra features like check in’s. I’ve really enjoyed using foursquare over the last year that I’ve had it. My biggest complaint about it is that there doesn’t seem to be enough companies, at least in Seattle, taking advantage of the things that foursquare could offer them.

    All of that being said, I’ve never used it abroad so I can see how your critiques could be an issue in that aspect.

  • http://twitter.com/scanna283 a Boston runner

    i have been using 4sq since its inception – a month after it launched at SXSW – so April 2009 – you obviously don’t have a competitive streak like the rest of us. I get deals from my local restaurants all the time, plus AMEX is now partnering so you get LOTS of deals! Why not try stroking that competitive fire and see what its all about!

  • http://www.dongletap.com/ Julian Miller

    A problem I’ve run into while trying to use foursquare is places tried to jump on the bandwagon early and many profiles list deals that aren’t valid anymore. It’s a poor reflection on the service.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    What are you competing for? The deals? You are right that I am not much of a deal person. I have never bought a Groupon and don’t care.

    Alternatively, are you referring to the game mechanics in Foursquare? It is also true that I don’t like to spend time playing games except with my son. :-)

    I guess you can say that I am a competitive person though. I just don’t see any value in competing on Foursquare.

  • http://www.dongletap.com/ Julian Miller

    I can openly admit that I don’t “get” foursquare but i also think it says something about the value generated when only 5% of adults use location-based check-in apps http://mashable.com/2011/12/06/adults-use-location-based-apps/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9507030 Andrew Jiang

    I’m not sure I agree that Facebook doesn’t incentivize people to check in, and they’re definitely collecting lots and lots of data around people’s behavior (come on, it’s Facebook).

    The difference is that foursquare incentivizes through competition / artificial points, while Facebook is incentivizes through sharing memories, nostalgia, and bragging to people about all the cool places you’ve been. The latter I believe is a genuine motivator, one that everyone has (not just the tech-savvy).

    The sharing aspect of Facebook check-ins already looks significantly better than foursquare does on Facebook, unsurprisingly. Since most people are unwilling to check-in twice to the same place, soon people will wonder why they have foursquare at all.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    My point exactly.

  • Guest

    “Oh, snarkiness, neat.”


  • Anonymous

    You missed some important points. Dennis Crowley wants to enrich Foursquare data from application developers. This would be very interesting for the potential richness amount of data that would available for developers of applications using Foursquare data. Imagine the three ways you hope to get value out of Foursquare, but the applications are created by other developers using data from Foursquare and other sources. Facebook as a platform makes a lot of money from Zygna and so can Foursquare in the future. There is no way one company has the talent or resources to develop every potential application on it’s platform. Foursquare is a platform and in the future it will make money from it’s partners.

    Here is a brilliant example of an app that uses Foursquare location data and Twitter data to check people who are in the same location and follow the same people on Twitter. http://agora-app.heroku.com/

  • http://twitter.com/andyidsinga andyidsinga

    Hi Yalim, I do like foursquare, here’s how I use it:

    1) I like to brag about the restaurants and coffee shops I visit. Makes me feel hip and cool and down with the city ..even though I’m neither hip nor cool :)

    2) I like to read the tips left for restaurants .. often interesting advice about what to eat. At “translate” button would make this an awesome feature for use when travelling abroad.

    anyhow – thanks, good post … even though I sort of disagree that foursquare is in trouble :)

  • http://twitter.com/GuidoGiannelli Guido Giannelli

    i don’t use facebook … that’s all ;)

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Hi Andy,

    I like them too. And 2) can be quite useful indeed. However I worry that they might not generate enough revenue to justify the funding they have raised and this is only bad news for its users.

  • http://twitter.com/andyidsinga andyidsinga

    ah, yes, excellent point. I suppose their challenge is to put more deals in front of me formthe brief peiods im in the app and also help their other customers – shops – more effectively engage with me.

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelLajlev Michael Lajlev

    I use foursquare for the fun of seeing other people who checked in, nice places to eat nearby mentioned by fellow 4sq’s, I like the info it gives me (“last time you where here”, “your 5. check-in at a pizzaria”, ect.). 4sq works without a lot of active friends, which I find awesome, and is the reason I recommend it to all smartphonies.

  • Sophie

    A pretty cheap ploy for pageviews & attention to write a blog post describing only your anecdotal experience and opinion then title it “Foursquare is in trouble.” Clearly foursquare is not in trouble, but especially not because you didn’t happen to see the value in it over your preferred Facebook.

  • Anonymous

    We feel the LBS App industry is in diapers. Foursquare is a generalistic app that gives you badges as rewards
    If you are into going out at night there is a new app called BUY ME A DRINK helps you remember your thirsty history, where you have been, new people you meet over your favorite drinks and gives you free music downloads just for using the App

    Foursquare and places are great to use at the cleaners or check in at the office but if you really want to socialize beyond your FB you need to think outside the big apps and go niche.,. Are you on The Olive yet

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    No. What does Olive do?

  • Ya boiii

    More people check-in with Facebook than with foursquare.

    So much for being “depreciated”.

  • Ya boiii

    Let’s look at the real reason Foursquare is in trouble:

    They make no profit, and they’ve been in business for nearly 3 years.

    Tell me, why would I, as a business owner, invest my time promoting my services on a website that has a much greater chance of failing tomorrow than say, Facebook?

  • http://www.queesunensayo.net/ que es un ensayo

    Fantastic article ! You havemade some very astute statements and I appreciate the the effort you have put into your writing. Its clear that you know what you are writing about. I am excited to read more of your sites content.

  • http://www.queesunensayo.net/ que es un ensayo

    Fantastic article ! You havemade some very astute statements and I appreciate the the effort you have put into your writing. Its clear that you know what you are writing about. I am excited to read more of your sites content.

  • http://myindigolives.wordpress.com/ Ellie K

    Lonely Planet is superb. Not much even comes close to it, IMHO. Lonely Planet has been around for a long time. Even in paperback book form, it was inexpensive but had good photos, original content and advice. Seems like an example of a successful “pivot”, as they say.

    I just read Fred Wilson’s AVC blog post about FourSquare. I read your comments too. They were good!

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Thank you Ellie. Lonely Planet is indeed amazing. Their apps are also good but I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Still I never travel without a Lonely Planet book and app.