Foursquare ditches check-ins
In its quest to become a hyperlocal recommendation engine, this year Foursquare cast off check-ins, its most popular feature, and rebuilt its app to rely on geolocation and user tastes. You can still check in to locations with a stand-alone app,Swarm, but users were furious--no more competing with all other users to become mayor of your favorite bar. No more badges or check-in perks. It didn't go over well.
Swarm was a little buggy at launch, with check-in hiccups and constant crashes. Foursquare has pushed out regular updates to improve the experience, even while shifting its efforts to smarter recommendations, and Swarm's latest version has better ratings than it did at launch. People have begrudgingly accepted the revamped Foursquare, which is actually worth using (though I found the constant location-tracking creepy ). The company also overhauled its iPad app, turning it into a travel-planning tool. Foursquare clearly has no shortage of ideas, even if they're not always popular.
Yik Yak is popular on college campuses, but has attracted bullies.
Just like Twitter, the anonymous apps that took over the world this year have struggled to stem the tide of malicious gossip and bullying that run rampant when anonymity is involved. Secret, Whisper, and Yik Yak spread across college campuses and took root in tech companies. Facebook introduced its own take on anonymity with the spin-off app Rooms.
Apps that were supposed to encourage funny musings or heartfelt confessions took a nasty twist. Rumors about tech execs spread on Secret while junior high and high school students used Yik Yak to bully their classmates. Secret banned the use of real names and recently rebooted as a location-based conversational app with private messaging. Yik Yak created geofences to block middle school and high schools from using the app, but bullying among college students sadly still thrives on the network. Professors at Colgate University recently staged a social media sit-in and flooded Yik Yak with positive posts after racist comments on the app caused tension on campus. The challenge for anonymous apps in the new year is to figure out if there's a way to create a safe, anonymous space that's fun for everybody, or if anonymity inevitably breeds (and feeds) trolls.
Facebook toys with your emotions
Everyone knows that Facebook uses algorithms to adjust your News Feed so you don't get a straightforward chronological timeline of all your friends' posts. It's annoying, but a fact of life. The network went farther than that--too far--when it experimented with 600,000 users' News Feeds, showing some people positive posts and others negative ones to determine how your friends affect your mood. News of the experiment, which was conducted in 2012, came out in July and caused a firestorm of controversy.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.