I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Foursquare since February 2010. I didn’t join earlier because I was using Windows mobile in those days, and even when I switched to one of the early Windows phones, there was no native app. But that’s history. The point of this post is to discuss the recent changes to Foursquare, and the introduction of Swarm.
Just over a week ago, on Saturday 10 May, Foursquare started making changes (at least that’s when the Android app was affected). Suddenly one didn’t get the usual number of points for checking in at places where one is Mayor, and ‘ousting’ of Mayors stopped. The immediate consequence of this for me was that my maximum daily check-in total dropped by a factor of 3. This meant that one of the two things I use Foursquare for, to build up a competitive weekly points total, was no longer an option.
Perhaps at this point I should explain why I like Foursquare and what I use it for. Apart from getting points and Mayorships, and the satisfaction of being at the top of the leaderboard of my ‘friends’, I also use it as a kind of travel diary. I travel quite a lot, and Foursquare helps me record where I’ve been, and tells me when I return to a location I’ve previously visited. I have never used it to find out where friends are, or to find recommend places. Ironically this seems to be what the Foursquare team want their users to do!
So, going back to the events of this past week, after the changes to points and Mayorships, we awaited the rollout of Swarm, a new complementary app, aimed at the ‘interaction with friends’ aspect of Foursquare. It became available on Thursday, and I’ve been using it alongside Foursquare for the past few days. Here are some comments:
(I) Once you’ve installed Swarm, checking in is done via its screen, which is basically a revamp of the Foursquare one.
(ii) To find out your points tally you still have to use Foursquare, but I have found that I no longer get points for most check-ins. I only get them for those locations where there is a bonus, such as the ‘Science is everywhere’ bonus for checking into some Science buildings at my University, or the bonus points when you check-in somewhere 3 times in a week. But presumably when the new Foursquare app emerges in the summer, points will be a thing of the past anyway.
(iii) Swarm makes a big play of its ‘Plans’ feature, designed so you can find out if your friends are in the area, or interested in meeting, etc. Maybe that will appeal to some users, but I do wonder if it will have the success the Foursquare team hope!
(iv) You still get the useful comments like ‘Your first time at X since Y weeks ago’, which is good.
Some of these changes seem to be mainly a result of Foursquare wanting their app to be used in different ways from those of many users. In their blog prior to the release of Swarm, they said that getting a Mayorship had more or less become impossible. But this wasn’t my experience. For example one of my local coffee shops had a constantly changing Mayor depending on who was there last. It was fun, and I’ll miss that aspect. It’s also distressing to see my weekly points tally, which peaked at 770, going inexorably down (currently at 214). At least my 63 Mayorships are ‘frozen’ for now. And, incidentally I can’t see how ‘Mayors 2.0’ will work for me as that’s not the way I use Foursquare.
So I’ll keep using Foursquare and now Swarm, to record where I go. There’s no longer any reason to try to check-in to lots of places to get points, so my actual check-in tally will also increase more slowly (currently 18890). But I’ll still have a visible presence, and will be interested to see what the revamped Foursquare app is like.
If any other users read this and have comments, I’ll be interested to read them.