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Foursquare reinvents itself, but will the overhaul pay off?

Matt Kapko | Aug. 25, 2014
Foursquare CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley has long lamented the need to make users do much more than what's necessary. Foursquare has always asked a lot of its users, though, even if that's because the scope and ambition for a personally curated social discovery app requires it.

Foursquare CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley has long lamented the need to make users do much more than what's necessary. Foursquare has always asked a lot of its users, though, even if that's because the scope and ambition for a personally curated social discovery app requires it.

Now, five years after Foursquare first launched with a combined structure for gamification and information about places, Crowley is finally getting his chance to reinvent the platform in a vein much closer to what he always envisioned.

Crowley has been working on bridging the divide between our mobile devices and the places or events we gather with friends in the real world since 2000 when he first conceived the idea for and later co-founded Dodgeball, an early location-based service built around SMS technology that was acquired by Google in 2005.

Foursquare's overhaul began with the introduction of Swarm, the company's new answer for check-ins, finding friends and making plans. Swarm removes these features from Foursquare's namesake and relegates them to a separate and less broad application. The change is profound and jarring for many longtime Foursquare users, as evidenced by the app's current two-star rating in Apple's App Store.

With Foursquare 8.0 (released earlier this month), the new vision for Foursquare is coming into focus. But having spent a couple months with Swarm and the updated version of Foursquare over the past weeks, the results are even more perplexing.

'Oh, The Places You'll Go'

Foursquare has always been a fun game for me of sorts, but its real-world implications provide the greatest value. As I collected badges, battled for mayorships and curated lists of my favorite places and the places I'd like to go, there's no denying that at least some of my patterns were guided by Foursquare.I've never been the type of user that checks in everywhere, but there was a time when I incessantly checked in at my dry cleaners because I was determined to maintain my mayorship there. At one point, I actually got a little upset when another user claimed to have stolen from me the mayorship of a great spot for sandwiches during closed hours.

Senseless distractions like those aside, I've continued to find value in Foursquare's capability to help me explore and discover new places. The new app marks an evolutionary step in that direction, but too many instances where I used to have more control over how I made the app work for me in the past have been replaced by automation.

I miss that lack of control more than I thought I would.

Foursquare Lists Get Buried

For starters, where did my lists go? Lists are one of Foursquare's simplest, but most effective features, but they are now buried almost to the point of  meaninglessness. After searching for lists on the new app to no avail, I discovered many other users were venting their frustrations about the near absence of lists as well. I say near because lists are still around, but they're just buried under saved places on the profile tab.

 

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