Can Someone Explain Foursquare to me?

OK, so I’ve seen all the “experts” talking about how Foursquare is going to be the next big thing, and I’ve seen other folks using it, and looked at what it is, and how they’re using it, and I’m just not seeing the point.

Oh I see the point for commercial opportunities, isn’t having all this data about where someone goes, how often, how much time they spend there, etc. pretty much the holy grail of advertising data? Heck, you can get users to advertise for you, for free, simply by coming to your place of business a lot, and checking in with FourSquare!

What I don’t understand is why I, as an individual, would want to use it? To let people know where I am? I can do that with Twitter without checking in and sharing that information with the foursquare database, and even then, how often do you really care where I am? Seriously, it’s one thing to share a favorite restaurant tip with folks via twitter, it’s quite another to announce via Foursquare and Twitter every time you go to the grocery store, or to your office, or stop at Starbucks. Sharing that I’m a big fan of a local pizza place might be helpful information to local folks, letting the world know every time I go there, is borderline creepy, and completely useless to the people who follow me, unless they really want to stalk me. (But since most of my followers are not local, it’s even useless for that!)

As I see it now, the only real “benefit” to using it is that some businesses might be willing to give me free stuff, if I “check-in” on average more than other users. So, again, I’m trading my privacy for a free coffee? No, thanks.

If there’s a place I feel really strongly about and want to recommend on Twitter, or my blog, I’ll gladly do that, without bugging all of you each and every time I go there, and without allowing a marketing company to track my coming and going.

So, those of you are convinced this is the next big thing, hit the comments and tell me if I’m missing something?

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  1. Just to muddy the waters even more, have you tried Gowalla? It's like geocaching except you drop virtual trinkets at certain physical locations. The next time a Gowalla player visits that location IRL they can pick up the virtual goodie and leave their own treasure. In my own circle of friends, Gowalla seems to have more appeal than Foursquare.

    I think Foursquare may be trying to do something like Gowalla, but failing upward. They are trying to make socializing around a specific location cool, except they can't come up with a good reason for people to go to any particular spot. In spite of that, they are getting popular because of all the buzz around accidental connections people make through Foursquare. If you are into Tweetups and meetups in general, this can be a useful toy. If you like to keep relationships unphysical, then Foursquare is pointless.

  2. Marv,

    I have seen some mentions of Gowalla but haven't really looked at what the differences are. I can see where that would be kind of fun along the same lines as geocaching.

    Just to clarify, I'm not really saying that I like to keep relationships online and not offline, just that I'm not sure I don't already do quite a bit of meeting people without the help of Foursquare, so why use another service? Besides, if that was really the point, why do I see so many people "checking in" from home, work, a grocery store, the gas station, etc. Those aren't places to meet up, so what exactly are you trying to accomplish? Or maybe I'm just underestimating the amount of free time other people have to randomly meet up with people. 😉

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