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With Swarm app, Foursquare about much more than checking in

Al Sacco | May 21, 2014
Last week location-based social network Foursquare released a new mobile app and broke its service into two components. The new "Swarm" app for iOS and Android (a Windows Phone version is expected later this summer) is for check-ins and friend-finding, while the evolved foursquare app will no longer features check-in functionality and focuses instead on local search.

In past versions of Foursquare, checking in was the central feature; the first thing you saw when you opened up Foursquare was a check-in button. Even though it featured a local-search option called "Explore," that initial check-in screen could be seen as a major turnoff for folks who don't want to share location information.

It makes perfect sense for Foursquare to divide itself in two at this point. There's a lot of value in its location database, and that kind of information has real mass appeal.

2) Gamification Changes: Badges, Points, Mayorships and Stickers

I'm a sucker for Foursquare badges. I've spent a lot of time and effort researching Foursquare badges, tracking down the right venues to unlock them and checking in all over of the United States in search of them. I currently have 138 Foursquare badges. (I know, I know, I'm a nerd. But if you're still reading this, you probably are, too.)

In addition to badges, Foursquare users received points for every check-in, with the number of points depending a handful factors, such as the uniqueness of a check-in or if they are the "Mayor" of an establishment. Foursquare Mayorships were awarded based on the number of times users checked in to the same venue during a set time period. If you checked into your local watering hole more times in the past two months than anybody else, you got the Mayorship.

In Swarm, all of this changes. Points are gone completely. I'm OK with that, as I stopped looking at points years ago.

Mayorships aren't going away, but they're morphing into something different. In Swarm, venues will have multiple Mayors, and they'll be awarded to Foursquare users who check in more than any of their friends. In other words, Mayorships will be specific to groups of connected friends. I also welcome this change, because a lot of people on Foursquare cheat. For example, some users check-in to tons of nearby venues without actually visiting them. It's also awfully hard to earn the Mayorship at your favorite restaurant when the bartender, who is there five nights a week, is also a Foursquare user. This change could breathe new life into the Foursquare mayor system.

Then there are badges. It's unclear how exactly the badge system will work in Swarm, but it is going to change. Badges you earned in the past aren't going anywhere, according to Foursquare; they'll live on the online "trophy case."

Foursquare didn't release specifics on the new badges but says it "built the spiritual successor to badges." This, at least, suggests the company realizes the relevance of badges to loyal users — though we'll have to wait until "later this summer" to see how the new badges will work.


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