Foursquare, Swarm and the Evolution of the Check-in

When Foursquare recently announced that they were planning on splitting their app in two, many criticized the change.

In this post I would like to focus one particular aspect of the revamp: mayorships.  Analyzing mayorhips, and more importantly, why they are being downplayed significantly is in my opinion a model for how and why Foursquare is changing as a company.

Dennis Crowley has been saying for a while that Foursquare, while popular, has a perception problem.  Most people view Foursquare as a game.  It’s the app where users check-in to try to win badges and mayorships when the fact of the matter is, Foursquare offers far more than that.  Over the years it has matured into a product that thanks to billions of check-ins, features a fairly comprehensive and easy to use recommendation engine.  Downplaying the gamification aspect of the app while highlighting discovery is their way of forcing their community of over 45 million to alter their behavior.

Discounts seem to be going away as well.  I’ll admit that as a user, this is probably the one feature that I will miss.  From a business and product perspective, I can understand why they are making this change.  By eliminating discounts they are eliminating the need to strike deals with brick and mortar businesses.  Anyone who has visited a bar or restarurant’s outdated, tacky flash based website will attest to the fact that many small businesses are not exactly leaping into the 21st century head first.

Keep in mind that while Fousquare is a social network, at the end of the day, they're competing with the likes of Yelp and Zagat, not Facebook and Twitter.