Foursquare is the latest social-networking phenomenon to sweep the world. It's a location-based service that's - at least for the moment - little more than a game.
If you think Twitter is an addictive, pointless waste of time (1) you're not using it right, so go back to Facebook, and (2) wait till you've tried Foursquare.
Foursquare is the latest social-networking phenomenon to sweep the world, and if your Twitter feed is clogged up with "I just became the mayor of..." tweets you're likely mighty miffed about it.
Foursquare is a location-based service that's - at least for the moment - little more than a game. As of December 2009, it has 170,000 members.
Armed with apps for their iPhone, BlackBerry or Android smartphone and iPod touch users "check-in" at venues to be awarded points and sometimes unlock special badges (some of which grant your powers over the service).
When you fire up your mobile Foursquare app it locates you and identifies a number of local venues for you to check into. If the place you're at isn't listed you can refine the search or add that venue to the overall list.
When you have checked-in to a venue more than anyone else - it must be on separate days, and you must have added a profile picture - you'll be crowned "Mayor" of that venue. You remain Mayor until someone else usurps you by checking in more times.
You can create a "To Do" list for private use (and earn points by actioning them) and add "Tips" to venues that other users can read.
The social part of the service is in the ability to add Foursquare friends, who you can compete with for points in a weekly challenge. You can also play against other users in your main location.
You can add your Twitter and Facebook logins to send out tweets automatically when you check-in (very annoying for your friends and followers who aren't using Foursquare), when you become Mayor (potentially embarrassing if you suddenly become Mayor of somewhere inappropriate) and when you unlock Badges (you'll likely look like a sad git to non-game players, especially when you win the Bender badge for checking into a venue four nights in a row).
From a non-game point of view Foursquare has the potential to build up a volume of tips and information about venues that all users can use and enjoy.
And there is a growing list of venues that offer prizes and discounts if you can show that your are Mayor of that place - to encourage Foursquare users to check-in frequently.
Foursquare is fun if you have a large group of friends playing along with you. Once you've out-gunned them then you can set your sites on becoming the ace Foursquare user of your city or main location.
You can check your Foursquare activity on its website, which has a bunch of self-important graphs, statistics and check-in logs.
It took me a few weeks to become the top Foursquare user in London, a feat that I would have difficulty replicating now that there are many more - and manically fervent - Foursquare users active in London.
It's most fun at the start when earning badges is easier. It's been weeks since I last earned a badge and since that time I topped the London list, added lots of tips and checked into many new venues. If the game/service if to grow it really should be more rewarding of users who go the extra mile to add tips and venues.
Once Foursquare allows veteran users to add their own badges for people to win it might keep members using the service longer.
The mobile apps also need to get better at locating venues. Venue info is down to users adding correct details but the apps often miss a venue even when you're standing right in it. Some form of GPS enhancement is definitely called for.
(When you become a Super User you are often granted editing permissions to change venue details, delete inappropriate or duplicate venues, etc.)
For me it's probably time to hang up my Foursquare app, and I set myself the (admittedly easy) task of becoming Mayor of the street lived on by London's real Mayor, Boris Johnson. That done I can't really see the point of carrying on as there appears to be not much left to win - hence the need for more badges or points for doing more than just checking in.
I might keep checking in to a select few venues to keep up my mayorships, however. I have a virtual sense of pride when I walk through my local park (Highbury Fields in London), knowing that I am its Foursquare Mayor.
As a Chelsea FC fan I'm also rather fond of being Mayor of the club's Stamford Bridge stadium - as well as Mayor of arch rivals Arsenal's Emirates stadium, which I walk past every day on the way back from the office.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>
- Compatible mobile phone
- internet connection
- Compatible mobile phone
- internet connection
Foursquare is an initially addictive social-networking game, which is fun to play while you compete against friends and locals, earning points and unlocking Badges, and becoming virtual Mayor of popular places. At the moment it's little more than that, but things could change if it really takes off - which it looks like it might on its current trajectory.