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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.

Making It Your Own

"There's no reason why we should all get the same recommendations when looking for a place to eat, drink or shop," the company writes in a blog post announcing the all-new Foursquare. "Getting a one-size-fits-all list of places may have been innovative in 2006, but it feels downright antiquated now. Our tastes are all different, so why should we all see the same results?"

A carousel menu running below the search box organizes places in a daily rundown of sorts, beginning with breakfast, followed by brunch, lunch, coffee, dinner, dessert, nightlife, shopping, fun and sights. You can still search for specific venues or specialties and refine the results based on distance, price and a range of features like outdoor seating, ambiance and other categories.

A banner reading "What's good here" appears when you select the here tab, which searches for the venues closest to your current location. And finally, tips get their own tab as well with tips for nearby places organized by the people you follow and your growing accumulation of tastes.

The app, which pushes its most advertiser-friendly features to the forefront, marks a new beginning for the five-year-old startup as it tries once again to make a pitch for more ad revenue. But by reasoning with the needs of advertisers and at times removing or downplaying other core features, Foursquare is risking alienation among its most loyal users.

"I really loved Foursquare. Now it seems like they're trying to get me to quit," writes one reviewer in the App Store. The early reviews are mostly negative and they're piling up, giving the app an average rating of two-and-a-half stars.

In many cases, the delineation between Foursquare and Swarm is too wide. Although the apps are certainly related and still play nice with one another by linking back and forth, the process feels broken. The experiences many like me enjoyed on Foursquare have been replaced with something less fun and, even more importantly, less addicting.

My check-ins have dropped off considerably since Swarm was released and somehow Foursquare just feels more like a digital guide that belongs in my travel folder of apps now. An automated tool for local search and discovery isn't the kind of app I see myself using daily. But a custom, curated social discovery platform that reminded me of the places I enjoy and others I still want to visit is something I will miss sincerely.

Foursquare and Swarm still have two of the 20 coveted spots on my phone's home screen, but I'm already thinking about others that might be a better fit for my starting lineup.


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