Think for a moment on the concept of “checking-in.” “Call me when you land!” mom says. “Let me know when you’re on the road,” your girlfriend commands. “Text me when you get there,” you’re annoying, psuedo-friend from college begs, because he knows that you’ll inevitably flake, but it doesn’t really matter because you’ll just say “sorry, I was totally smashed” the next time you run into him.
Most view these kinds of check ins as cumbersome chores, annoying reminders that your tab is being kept, that your leash, however long and unseen, is still snugly fastened.
I used to think foursquare was a horribly shitty, pointless app. I used to think that their kinds of check ins involved vexing friction like calling dad after his 3rd “Are U OK? I miss you” guilt-text. But it seems that the company wants to head in a different direction: One in which your phone, and its GPS technology, becomes a passive, ambient, knowing-guide to your social life.
While foursquare’s 25 million users continue to check in, the discovery company’s co-founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley, sees a trend in the way new users interact with the service. In an interview with Om Malik of GigaOm, Crowley talks about a future for foursquare. Where the companies initial user base actively checked into restaurants, bars and coffee shops, many new users sign up with no intention of checking into establishments. Instead, these people utilize foursquare as a guide to their local social scene. Where’s a good sandwich place around here? What bar is gonna be crazy tonight? Which bookstore did my roommate recommend?
With over 2.5 billion check ins already logged, Crowley believes that many people simply want to “consume” the reviews of their friends rather than checking in and creating their own.
Moving from active usage, explicitly stating to the digital public where you are and what you thought of a particular steakhouse, Crowley believes future foursquare will be a passive, ambient service, like your phone unobtrusively suggesting a sushi place that your girls love. Or, you’d receive notice of a hilarious happy hour special because your foursquare knows, from previous experience, that you are a self-sabotaging, Jager-bombing binge drinker.
Alluding to Harry’s Potter’s, Marauder’s Map, the GPS geek complains about the sad state of map apps. They are blank, Crowley says. You are a pathetic, lonesome dot. Why not populate a map with many other dots representing your friends? You could see where the bros are draining Sunday pitchers, what club all the high heels are click-clacking towards.
Foursquare wants to become a hyper specific search and discovery tool, an app that uses your friends’ taste (your trust) to become “contextually aware” of your preferences. The company could be your silent cartographer, your local search engine who knows, without you saying, just where you want go.
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