Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley never wanted his app to be just a "check-in button." In order to be more than a novelty, Crowley realized Foursquare couldn't just be about saying "I am here." And after a rocky couple of years, the company needed to create some momentum, to make their app about social interactions, planning, and discovery—not "I am here" but "let's go there."
The solution to Foursquare's solipsistic woes seems to be Swarm, a new location-based social app that launched today. The company first teased the app in a blog post at the beginning of the month, and excitedly previewed some of the its new features this week. (No, it has nothing to do with bees.)
"We spend a lot of time talking to people about Foursquare, and we constantly hear they use Foursquare for two things—to keep up and meet up with their friends, and to discover great places," a blog post reads.
With Swarm, those two use cases will be "unbundled"; while you can still discover local watering holes and snack bars with Foursquare, Swarm will be used for keeping up with your friends and making plans—and yes, it'll still be used for checking in.
Meanwhile, Foursquare will become more personalized and Yelp-like, according to the post:
We believe local search should be personalized to your tastes and informed by the people you trust. The opinions of actual experts should matter, not just strangers. An app should be able answer questions like ‘give me a great date dinner spot’ and not just ‘tell me the nearest gas station.'
This new version of Foursquare should launch this summer.
The real question for the app’s most dedicated users is how will Swarm up Foursquare's social-stalking factor? Here are a few of the app's new functions:
For starters, "checking in"—the function that is most synonymous with Foursquare—will now solely exist inside Swarm (though check-in data will be shared with Foursquare, which should help personalize search results). Essentially, anything that lets your friends find out where you are and what you're doing will be handled in Swarm. A public “plans” page will let your nearby friends see what you're up to and make plans with you (i.e.: "Anybody want to go for a walk today?" "Beers after work?").
In a feature similar to Facebook's Nearby Friends, Swarm's neighborhood sharing function will let users see which of their friends are within the area. Users can choose to turn the feature off by swiping at the top of the screen.
Feeling nostalgic for your trip to the Bahamas? Can't remember the name of that amazing taco stand you checked into at 4am last weekend? History search will let you view all your past check-ins on your profile.
Swarm will keep up the Foursquare tradition of giving you fun little insights into your check-in habits ("You've checked into this bar eight days in a row! Maybe go easy on the sauce, huh?"), but now you'll also be able to attach stickers to your check-ins. Much like the badges of yore, you'll unlock stickers as you use the app and check into different kinds of places. And yes, stickers are big right now, so Foursquare is going to give the people what they want. (Also worth nothing: Another Foursquare blog post adds that Swarm will feature a "spiritual successor" to badges, but no word yet on what that means.)
Now onto the important stuff: Swarm will still feature mayorships, but you'll no longer be ousted by the random stranger who hangs out at your favorite bagel place even more than you do, or the office jerk who insists on being mayor of your cubicle. "Mayors 2.0" means places can have multiple mayors, one for each circle of friends. In the meantime, whatever mayorships you own on Foursquare will be frozen in place for the world to see.
The app's enhanced social features could make it a hit with a generation of serial oversharers and perennial texters. If successful, it may draw in a brand new audience attracted to the in-depth social aspect of Swarm (or, conversely, to the encyclopedic yet personalized venue database of the new Foursquare). And of course, all that data the app gathers on users' preferences and movements—something Foursquare has always done—will be extremely enticing to advertisers. But for an app that has so far inspired mostly derision once its novelty wears off ("Wait, why do I want everyone to know where I am?"), and has had a rocky history with investors, Swarm could also end up being a last-ditch effort on the business side, and a well-intentioned source of over-sharing to users.
H/T The Next Web | Illustration by Jason Reed