Do your thing and do it well

Last weekend a friend of mine tried to open a beer with a Swiss Army Knife bottle opener. She failed. I’m sure the opener works, but I was left with the thought that sometimes when something tries to be everything, it often isn’t as good as its competition which is focused on doing one thing really well. The latter category includes bottle openers and Foursquare. The former, Facebook Places.

Facebook Places is interesting and may become a juggernaut. I’m a digital optimist so I’ll be using it. However, before we declare Foursquare and Gowalla goners there are a few things worth thinking about.

  1. The Facebook Places check ins will litter your feed. If this catches on, expect to see streams of check ins throughout your newsfeed. FB has done a good job of organizing birthday wishes and check ins by multiple people at the same place to be under one item, but if everyone starts checking in it could get ugly.
  2. Typically people have a smaller group of friends on foursquare and these are people whom they actually want to know where they are. With hundreds of friends on facebook, we all know there are many we don’t know that well or don’t really care about, let alone want to know where we are. Part of the beauty of Foursquare and the other check in apps are the smaller groups of friends with whom you can have an ongoing conversation.
  3. Competition is fun. I stole the mayorship of a local coffee shop from my boss the other day and my wife and I are battling for a park. The competition is one massive reason Foursquare is outdueling Gowalla and one reason it is currently superior to Facebook Places. Without competition, why would I check in at the same coffee shop or office every day? It would be like posting the same exact status update daily.

There’s no doubt that Facebook is a powerful tool that unites so many millions of us and there are some great uses for Places. However, the above three points make me think there is room for both Foursquare and Facebook Places in our congested digital world.

What do you see as pros and cons of each location based app?

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4 Responses to “Do your thing and do it well”

  1. Miket says:

    I think you’ve made some good predictions here. Hopefully FB has some good ideas on how to keep this from becoming annoying.

    I use Foursquare a lot, and I find the competitive aspect of Foursqure to be really addicting. They said from the beginning that they wanted to turn the whole world into a game board, and they’re on their way to doing it. However, they haven’t done a great job of keeping the experience compelling for regular, but not obsessive users. I think if 4sq is going to be able to compete with the sheer volume of FB users that will give Places a shot, they’re going to have to make their game dynamic more, well, dynamic.

    Though I wouldn’t count Gowalla and Foursquare out, Facebook’s intentions are unmistakable. Just take a look at the places logo… It’s a 4 inside of a square, with a pin going through it. They’re sending a pretty clear signal; they want Foursquare dead!

  2. Jake says:

    Great post Dan.

    I think they can co-exist in the same category and be used differently. I might go somewhere where unique or really cool that I’d like all my facebook friends to know about, say Yellowstone National Park. Since I’m not a frequent visitor, I don’t think I’d be vying for a mayorship there, therefore making it less appealing to checkin with foursquare. The facebook checkin would also tap into more people where comments could point me to a secret spot or really great place for lunch.

    Foursquare will continue to grow from word of mouth(close group of friends) and a possibly the publicity from Facebook’s Places announcement. Geo-location is novel and becoming more available thanks to smart phones. People will try it out, but I don’t think Foursquare will ever reach facebook’s users base.

    I think the next question is whether or not the facebook community, which gets upset over any privacy policy changes, is ready to use the privacy weakening Places feature. Only time will tell.

  3. admin says:

    Great points. Hopefully having some serious competition will make Foursquare up its game.

  4. admin says:

    Jake – I totally agree on the Yellowstone comment. That’s a great example of when checking in on FB places will be a better way to share.

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