Foursquare and Gowalla are great. I just can’t help but think that they simply are not going to make it. While Foursquare has been the darling of a lot of media and bloggers out there (also maybe in talks with Yahoo) it has one glaring issue…
User base. It has to fight and fight for users. Sure it can connect into existing social platforms (buzz, Twitter, Facebook connect), it still has to beg you to add your friends, family, or associates.
Then take something like Check.In that allows you to Check in to all the Check in service it makes these sites just dumb pipes of information. I’ve found that most people that are heavy users of Ping.fm or Hello.txt do not interact within social networks; they use it for outbound messaging.
Even more interesting is the API approach. Tools and software that allows any application or developer to add location aware features to their app. While not as robust as Foursquare they still provide the basic functionality that I see most users would want.
The Biggest Issue of All
Here’s the big issue. Someone who wants to use this service is going to go to where his or her friends are. If the majority of your friends are on MySpace where do you hang out online? Well since most people in social media are on Facebook.
With Facebook allowing users to share a location within its core architecture why would you even need to visit a third party website? I would argue that Foursquare has nothing unique that Facebook couldn’t replicate.
When you listen to the founders of Foursqure they feel that one of the main reasons why you would use them over the others is they allow you to explore. The want you to learn new things about your city.
The service does do that that but all it takes for Facebook is to create a “place” page or feature and suddenly you won’t hear of Foursqaure anymore.
A big part of Foursquare is Game mechanics. It wouldn’t be that tough for Facebook to roll in this level of interaction. Look they already have Fanpages and many brands spend considerable time and resources driving traffic to grow and create interactions on their fan pages. This would just be a deeper level.
What About Google?
What is stopping them from implementing this? I guess using some mix of Buzz, Local, and Google Maps? Nothing except they are still flailing a little from the latest flap of privacy on Buzz.
A little off topic but Google is working on making local more of an aggregation of sources. Think Yelp only with the power of real time search, local blog reviews, plus some other features piled on. They have already put it in Beta in a few cities.
What to Do With This Information
If you have a localized business, get engaged in the location specific networks like Foursquare and Gowalla. Work hard on putting these things into the operations of your business. Understanding these networks, what works and what doesn’t. As an early adopter this will give you a head start for when Facebook, Twitter, and other apps and networks implement this into their networks.
If you want some reality to this geolocation noise I’d read Dave Curry’s article, it’s quick and makes tons of great points.
The Ultimate Location Based Service
Imagine a check in service that integrated the ability to purchase tickets, reservations, or coupons. Gave you the ability before you visited a park or a restaurant to see what it offered. Possibly checked your personal and online photo albums to catalog all the pictures you’ve taken there. First and foremost it isn’t something you actually check into but something that is running and just asks you to confirm your location.
To me this is what needs to happen with these services before they really hit mainstream. There has to be more than just the novelty of checking-in and more functionality. While I’m not a big user of these services I do see huge potential in them. So it is a space I would watch closely.