Foursquare: Location-Aware Social Networking Done Right

Just in time for SXSW, Dennis Crowley, one of the original developers of Dodgeball, has released a new location-aware social app (iTunes link) for the iPhone: Foursquare. At its core, Foursquare is a location-based social network, but at the same time, it is also a nightlife game where users get extra points for being the first to visit a new place, going out every night of the week, and for adding new information about clubs and restaurants.

Features

From within the app, you can update your location, send shouts to your friends, track your ‘achievements,’ and keep a to-do list that is shared with your friends. You can also add additional information about your favorite food or beer to your favorite hangouts.

Foursquare draws from a list of known restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The iPhone app also integrates reviews from Yelp and Google Maps. The app currently features a database for 12 of the larger metropolitan areas in the U.S., including Boston, New York, San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, and Austin. We expect that Foursquare will add data for more cities in the next few months. If a certain restaurant or bar is not in Foursquare’s database, you can also add your own.

Competition

The competitive elements are clearly stressed in this app, as you don’t just get points for everything you do on the service (and which are tracked on a leaderboard), but you can also receive badges for special achievements. Some of those, like being the ‘mayor’ of a certain place (the player who has checked in from this location more often than anybody else), are only given to one user at a time, and we can see how this might spur some fierce local competitions.

Verdict

Foursquare is a very cool application, and unlike other location-aware apps, it adds a competitive element to the interaction, as it rewards you for checking in whenever you arrive at a new location. This solves a major problem that has held back a lot of similar apps like Loopt or Brightkite in the past: users simply didn’t have enough of an incentive to open up the app and check in every time they arrived somewhere new. With Foursquare, checking in, however, becomes the thing to do.

Overall, we can see how this app could become quite addictive and we wouldn’t be surprised if it took Austin by storm this weekend.

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