Thursday, August 19, 2010

Will Foursquare Race Past Facebook, Twitter?

With so many denizens of the contemporary society showing marked preference for mobile Internet via smart phones, a tech phenomenon like the Foursquare was bound to happen someday. Popular networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are easily accessible if you are using a notebook or a notebook. But it is foursquare that has turned out to be the proverbial belle of the ball, especially when it comes to networking via web connected smart phones. More precisely, foursquare is about location-based social networking, where you use your Smartphone to inform your friends where you are and what you are doing. Let us say, you are hanging out at the CafĂ© Coffee Day at Connaught Place. Just Post “@coffee day, sipping cappuccino” and your purpose will be served. There is no specific text format and the choice of words depends entirely on you. So, come out of your shell and speak. Tell your significant other hat you are “Stuck in a traffic jam. “Foursquare will vouch that you are speaking ‘nothing but the truth’.

Like any other social networking site on the block, Foursquare has become popular by playing up to our sense of narcissism. At the end of the day, we need to belong and must talk about our life, even when our activities are nothing but trivial. And those are precisely the needs that Foursquare manages to fulfill. The SNS allows us to be a part of a close knit community existing in the digital world and announce our presence in style. However, Facebook or Twitter does the same and many of us keep wondering whether Foursquare will soon become redundant.

Of course, foursquare can still be unique, useful or simply a waste of time. But none of us can predict that with confidence, as the twists and turns in digital space are as gloriously uncertain as the last few over’s of IPL matches. Do you remember that period when most tech analysts used to mock Twitter? “Ha, why should I tweet humdrum details about myself,” was the constant refrain of all and sundry. Today Twitter boasts millions of users and still counting. But with 18 million Twitter users proposed by the end of this year, are people ready for yet another social networking site?

The writing on the wall is, therefore, pretty obvious. The digital world changes faster than the sand dunes in the windswept Sahara desert. And no one can be absolutely sure about the future of Foursquare until it actually takes shape. These days, we have the buzz that Facebook has started generating more Web traffic than Google. No one could have expected that to happen, but business and social networking in the digital era has become such a big enterprise that is has led to a phenomenal rise in the popularity of Facebook. So, it is quite possible that Foursquare, too, can transmogrify into something much bigger than what it is today. But its success is closely linked to that of Smartphone. If more and more people decide to start using smart phones to access the Internet, Foursquare is bound to have a smooth rise to the top.  

There is no doubt that Foursquare has all the right ingredients to attract Gen Y who are deeply into networking. Thanks to the exciting game on offer, location based networking becomes all the more thrilling as users earn points and unlock badges. In one level, you are competing with your immediate circle of SNS friends. But soon enough, the challenge widens considerably as you are pitted against the rest of the city. It is you versus the wide world out there who can also visit the same locations and bag the coveted badges and points.

Once the ecosystem of the game takes off, it can develop in unexpected ways. It is possible that Foursquare may try to add further features to its gaming and networking scenario. If the younger generation latches on to this in a big way, Foursquare will become simply unstoppable.

One must not overlook the unique business model either. Services like Foursquare and Gowalla actually add a serious value to local businesses, local business aggregators like Yelp and marketers. As their membership grow with crowd sourced real time information, they will have comprehensive information to show business owners the deeper demographics about their customer base.

However, other networking sites are keeping a close tab on current developments. Facebook has already announced that it will soon add location based antics to its plethora of services. So, there will be no dearth of competition and Foursuare may have a tough time ahead. But the guys at the helm of the new venture are those who had once promoted another location based networking site called Dogeball. It stopped operation, though, shortly after Google acquired it. However, people like Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, the two main honchos at the helm of Foursquare, certainly don’t lack the expertise or the experience. So, one thing is for sure the networking space is going to see a lot of action in the time to come. 

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