Foursquare’s ‘unbundled’ check-in app, Swarm, came out today. Nick Summers wrote The Next Web’s review here and I had a whinge about one big thing missing (points!) here. In the interests of balance, here are some more of my thoughts about the new approach:

What I think Swarm gets right:

  • It focuses on social location, and a less cluttered app, should make for a more sticky app long-term, in a way that game-fied features don’t. I feel like I’ll use it to share images and context for my check-ins more often than I used to due to the stronger social focus.
  • As Matthew Panzarino says over at TechCrunch, it is (or can be used as) an ‘invisible app’ that provides utility for you and your friends even if you rarely open it, thanks to its passive ‘neighborhood’ location sharing. I’m not convinced that’s yet quite the trend Matthew says it is, (apps like Highlight haven’t exactly taken off) but Swarm is the best implementation of this I’ve seen so far.
  • Social plan-making apps (I’ve been pitched a few over the years) have never really taken off but Swarm’s approach, with the context of knowing who’s nearby even if they haven’t checked in, gives it the best chance of success in this field yet.

What I’ll miss about the old Foursquare:

  • As I’ve already said – check-in points, for the reasons explained here.
  • Connection to a wider world of users outside your friends. Thanks to the new ‘friends only’ mayorships and the focus on your own friends’ activities, I can’t see how you’ll ever get a feel for how many other Swarm users are around. There was something fun about battling a stranger over a period of years for the mayorship of Sale Metrolink Station. Once he stole the mayorship from me seconds before I checked in. We were probably on the same tram that day – rivals who had never met.

Notice I say ‘what I’ll miss’ rather than ‘what Swarm gets wrong’. As Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley explained to me on Twitter earlier, those wider gaming elements were alienating to many new users, and hey – Foursquare needs to find some kind of path to an exit.

Still, if someone wants to use the Foursquare/Swarm API to create some kind of real-time stats app that has bar charts, maps – and maybe even points – I’ll be a happy boy. Just don’t expect to make a big business out of it.

Image credit: Sean Winters / Flickr

One Comment

  • I’ll honestly miss the badges the most. The gamification of it was the reason that made foursquare addicting for me. I realize I’m most likely in the minority since they got rid of it, but I honestly don’t see myself using these apps anymore because of the new format. Being rewarded for trying new places was a lot of fun. I’m not even 30 yet, but am I now the old guy who texts his friends to set up plans? Don’t see a need to keep playing the game if there is no more game to be played.

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