Recently, someone asked me what I thought of Foursquare. In a word, I find Foursquare a pointless fad. Okay, that was two. He asked me to explain its popularity. Well, fads are based on popularity. Remember long poofy hair, parachute pants, boy George, and . . . um . . . Myspace. All those fads found their popularity with big hair bands, rappers who claimed to be “too legit to quit,” androgynous singers, and a World Wide Web popularity contest. “Congrats, Tila Tequila! You won!”
Well, now that we have the Social Web, we love to socialize with anyone, anywhere, at any time. On-line games allow people to compete with one another. Foursquare is not only a Social Web game, it is a Social Web game that allows people to compete for popularity. People sign up on Foursquare, go to Foursquare registered venues, and let the world know when they arrive.
In essence, the same things that make “Reality” T.V. shows popular—people’s collective temporary popularity mentality—make Foursquare popular. Though, just as kids eventually outgrow the need to have the coolest shoe or most popular video game, and the Paparazzi only stalks those stars who subconsciously yearn for mass attention, people on Foursquare will tire of the desire for popularity and the to desire to be followed.
The things that made the 80’s and early 90’s popular faded away, and those fads they made popular faded away. Right now, online games are popular because “Reality” shows are popular and unemployed people are bored with unemployment. According to Gallup, the national unemployment rate in Aug. was 9.3% and underemployment was 18.6%.
So, I admit it. In theory, Foursquare is a good idea. It fits the basic model of supplying to people what they demand—popularity and a cure for boredom. When people check in to Foursquare registered spots, they earn points, and those points are redeemable for rewards and popularity. Though, when people stop demanding popularity, Foursquare will either fade away or they will have to restructure their business model to fit a new fad.
So, Foursquare has its charm, but so did Myspace until Facebook came along. If Foursquare wants to survive, they need to combine the ideas of Yelp and OpenTable, but don’t make it a popularity contest. Give it another five years and you’ll see. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But I predict that if they don’t prepare for the collective popularity mentality and boredom factor to fade away, Foursquare will be remembered as the poofy hair of the World Wide Web.
Let me know your thoughts.