Good bye Foursquare!

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Thank you @dens,

thank you for the last 5 years I have been using Foursquare. It was a great time. Actually Foursquare was one of my most favorite social/digital inventions I have seen over the last years. I was using it a lot. But it seems I was using it very different than most of the users. I don’t want to talk about the design. There are better people who can talk about it. I actually want to talk about it as a heavy user, a “Superuser Level 2″.

Within the first year or so it was fun to check-in as often as possible, fighting with others about mayorships and getting these funny badges. I also remember that in early 2010 we, back then a small agency for digital marketing and communication, used Foursquare to hide recipe recommendations in super markets as trials for marketing. We left them as tips within locations. I think tips were incredible useful.

I used Foursquare to find and collect places. A useful thing are the photos. It was a shame photos were not added with comments. Thereby you knew for example if the food looks good but don’t know if it was good or bad. Later it was possible to add photos to tips. When Instagram started and it was strongly connected to Foursquare I always wished that the caption of the Instagram photos that were added to Foursquare locations would be added in Foursquare as well, but that never happened. Then Instagram was bought by Facebook and a strong link was missing.

Well, it was a shame that the linking between both apps was gone but you can’t blame Foursquare for it.

A while ago they started to separate Foursquare into two different things. Into Foursquare and Swarm. Swarm is the one thing I didn’t care about in Foursquare the whereabouts of “friends”. I just don’t care where my friends are checked in. I wanted to see that places people saved and where they added recommendations. But you got rid of that too. In the brand new app I can see the latest recommendations but no saves and especially not if they added them to lists.

Foursquare was really useful to me. For two things:

1. Recommendations, of the things I should get at places. Especially what dishes are recommended in restaurants, or not recommended. The ratings were bullshit. If I am looking for a good coffee place most of the time anything pops up, even Starbucks (or Tschibo in Germany). The recommendation system just doesn’t work, NEVER in social media things. You want to know why? Because it is based on quantitive ratings. “People who liked this, also liked this.” “People wo bought this, also bought this.” Likes, check-ins… I don’t even know what Foursquare uses to rate a location. On the other hand the recommendations I referred to at the beginning of this paragraph are useful because they are qualitative and take time. It takes more time to write a comment about a place than pressing one button.

Now Foursquare is more and more based on quantitative recommendations and ratings. Tell me if you like Schnitzel or Burritos and I tell you where to get Schnitzel or Burritos. I don’t think that is smart. It is just stupid algorithm logic but not social or human logic. A foodie is less interested in places which 1,204 people commented on “Good Schnitzel” but they are looking for the exact place that fit their taste. And now it’s harder to find this place. Why? Because point two is getting less important for Foursquare.

2. Point two is: lists. I loved making lists on Foursquare. I love making lists in general. For example I love Svpply and I love it that Ben Pierrat recreates Svpply with Very Goods. I was really happy that the funding succeeded. Lists on Foursquare are really useful. So far I created more than 40 lists. Based on cities, on areas, based on culinary things, like coffee places or burger places. I even created lists out of top 10 lists from magazines or blogs. I just created a list for Brussels, because we are going there soon. When I create a list, I look up stuff from Unlike, Spotted by locals, on NotVentures and ask on twitter and facebook for tips. And a very important aspect is serendipity, whenever I see a location I am interested in, I save it. For example, when I watch food shows like Antony Bordain’s Parts Unknown I collect certain places.
Now that part is almost gone. You can still see your lists. But when you want to save a location now, it is just saved, but you can’t add it to a certain list anymore. Only as saved places, and you see them only in your current area. I bet soon lists are gone completely, it doesn’t make any sense if you have lists but can’t add any places anymore.

Basically everything is based on your current location and the time now. And that is also a thing I am not that interested in. I wanted to go on searches, discover places and save them for later, make travel plans with Foursquare? Why? Because it was the only tool, the only app that worked for this.

Oh, and by the way it is no fun to use it anymore. Two apps, completely different user experiences, switching, getting lost, being frustrated. I am just annoyed and sad. (I honestly don’t get that the apps have different user experiences? I work for the Design Team of Deutsche Telekom and we are working for 4 years now to bring the experiences of different apps/services closer together, so people don’t get lost, remember things, feel more connected to the brand. You did the complete opposite. That just feels weird.)

A while ago I got an email about saying thank you for staying with Foursquare five years. Now I say thank you and good bye. I hope someone will start a kicktstarter for a travel recommendation serivce -  a combination of dopplr and Foursquare – both two tools I really have loved. I would support it, I would even like to be part of it.

Thank you, Foursquare, thank you and good bye.

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P.S. – A fun fact: A while ago you offered a job as a Creative Project Manager. I really thought about applying. Now I just would love to join your team to make Foursquare awesome again.

UPDATE: @dens (CEO of Foursquare and Swarm) just replied to me on twitter:

UPDATE II: @dens (CEO of Foursquare and Swarm) replied again on twitter:

UPDATE III:

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17 Comments

  • Brendan McKenna

    I was fine with all their changes till I noticed lists were now depreciated, Any thoughts on what to use instead? Siri reminders by location?

  • Natalia

    You’re making a very good point re the importance of lists. However good the technology behind Foursquare’s discovery engine is, curated lists are unmatched by what software can come up with. The lists in the way they have existed in the app for the last three years have been seriously lacking in usability though (using them on the go has always been a pain). I guess that can partly explain why they’ve been a “one per cent feature”.

  • Julian Nam

    You can still create a list on the foursquare website. Then you can add/edit venues. Or is it just me? *shrug*

  • Markus Reuter

    You are right. But it worked and Foursquare is (or was) the only app where you are (or were) able to create lists for locations. They even should take lists into their consideration for recommendations. If I put a place on a list, it must be really good. Or not?

  • Natalia

    Actually I’ve seen people create wacky lists like this one https://foursquare.com/awesomedonald/list/hilarious-whining-1 , so putting a place on a list isn’t an endorsement in 100% of cases.
    Lists haven’t been completely unusable, but it always took a few taps too many to get to the one you wanted. From time to time the app would crash… I remember distinctly I was wondering once why they didn’t make them a more pleasant experience or introduce better organising tools, i.e. day by day plans for trips.
    Google Maps has been offering custom maps for some time but I’ve never used it.

  • Mark

    I use the old foursquare in same way as you. Build up a list before a trip, check in to those places along the way, then leave behind some relevant photos and maybe tips. New foursquare completely killed it.

  • omae

    i too have been using foursquare the last 4 years in the same way: list building, tapping into other people’s lists, leaving tips/photos that are useful indicators of real venues and locations. this functionality is so heavily degraded right now that it’s depressing. i’m sticking w foursquare though because the alternatives are only worse… fb locations? awful. tripadvisor, yelp, google… none of them have the right balance of social/usability/quality info. or am i missing something else out there?

  • Dejon

    So well said. Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one using it that way, but its unfortunate there isn’t a good replacement out there for it. It Seems like they should acknowledge the gap in the app market and really take the opportunity to capitalize on it and make sure to bring the list features back to the mobile app.

  • Michael

    I’m with you, Mark. I had 40+ lists saved that I would use all around NYC and when traveling, checking in along the way. They are still visible, but I cannot add to them any longer (aside from the one general “To Do” list). The apps usefulness will take a big hit if they don’t bring back this feature.

  • Peter Cuce

    Hey Markus!
    I found your post because I started using the new Foursquare lists and was so depressed and disgusted that I searched to find out if I was missing something or if other people were as bummed out as I was. Lo and behold, I do a search and I find a post by my friend! I am/was a heavy list user, not only for myself, but for side projects involving food and coffee. You perfectly captured all of my emotions regarding the disintegration of the Foursquare experience. I want to write more, but I am running out to play volleyball in the park. I’ll say hi to everyone for you.
    Peter

  • Rick

    I do agree with you, I was wondering if I was only one to notice the changes and be upset by it. I find swarm completely irrelevant because I, as you, use foursquare to find good places, not to stalk my friends.
    Quite gutted about the lists too, as I also put some effort in creating and honing them, I hope the that “comeback” they promise will be effective!
    I’ll hang on to foursquare for a while longer :)
    Thanks for the useful post!

  • Laura

    Interesting read, there’s definitely a big gap there. Oh and if you happen to have a brunch list, could you kindly send it our way? Thanks!!

  • Rudy

    I share your sentiments exactly. I guess I was part of the 1% that used lists. I again am guessing that those of us that used lists were probably their biggest promoters…. Until now.

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Good bye Foursquare!