Foursquare: A Social Idea on the Bubble

I have been playing with foursquare for some time now. This is a social site that is still on the brink of making it or failure.

I say that because, while it clearly continues to be developed, I don’t see that the user base is growing. Of all the social sites I use, this one has the fewest of my connections. And, I seem to easily be able to become the major of most locations with a few as two check ins.

The developers are sure trying to make it stick. Recently, major updates were done. I got an email announcing the changes that proclaimed:

We re-imagined the entire app, Extreme Makeover style, to make it even easier for you and your friends to share and save your experiences and find new places to go. We also gave it plenty of design love and under-the-hood tweaks, so it’s not only prettier but faster than ever – hurrah!

Changes I have seen:

  • The phone interface is streamlined down to three simple tabs that are easier to use.
  • The friends tab now has swipeable photo slideshows, and shows things like tips, lists, and more check-ins.
  • Users can quickly ‘like’ and comment on what connections are doing.
  • The Explore tab shows friends nearby and gives personalized recommendations for nearby sites without the need to search.
  • Users can add a bio to the profile tab. The profile tab also shows  stats, activity, and more.
  • You can check into a location from the top right button anywhere in the application.
  • More badges that offer insight into the places where you like to go (the original foursquare badges all seemed to be around how many places you went to imbibe.)

There were also changes rolled out for merchants. Despite my efforts for more than two years to get Balance Interactive registered and my email as the POC, that hasn’t happened and I didn’t get notice of those changes. Mashable posted a good summary of the changes for merchants.

I have seen some good and not-so-good use of foursquare by organizations. Macy’s department store gives me a discount code with every check in; Chili’s restaurant offers me free chips and salsa. Annoying are the offers only for Amex users or only for the mayor.

So, I think the jury is still out on this social site. Will it find mainstream relevancy or end up in the pile of great ideas that did not catch on? If you use or have used foursquare, I’m interested in your thoughts.

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