Andrew Shotland asks a provocative question at SEL that I’ve been thinking about literally for the past few weeks: Is Foursquare The Future Of Local Search?
There are two answers: Generally no — but for some people partly yes.
Location-based mobile games and related promotions are here to stay (and they’re very interesting). However, they’re unlikely to be regular “use cases” for most of the population.
Just as 10-20% of people write the reviews that we all rely upon to make buying decisions, only a small, youthful group (which still could be large in absolute terms) will engage with FourSquare and GoWalla in any sustained way.
The rest of us mostly won’t. As these services offer deals and coupons for spending money at their advertisers’ businesses, a slightly broader audience might get involved to save some money. But playing these games is really not about saving money it’s about your peer group and ego. If the people surrounded you are involved with Gowalla and FourSquare so might you become involved. And then you’ll want to rank among the leaders.
Most people over 35 simply won’t participate. I could be quite wrong, as I was initially about Twitter.
People using location based mobile services want content and information about the best places to go, things to do and so on. But people “of a certain age” (with kids, etc.) are generally not going to compete to be the mayor of the coffeehouse or burger joint. Om Malik may be an exception in this case. 🙂
FourSquare’s founder Dennis Crowley has been working on mobile location-based services for years (he founded Dodgeball). He has a hit on his hands with FourSquare, but it’s not going to be the kind of “utility” that Google or Yelp is. It is likely to be bought by a larger company. And it has the potential to steal some of Yelp’s “buzz” or “cool,” which is why Yelp added a couple of FourSquare’s features recently (and improved them in some ways).
What FourSquare and others in this category illustrate is the way that there is opportunity for mobile networks and startups to capture the imagination and gain usage vs. incumbents on the PC side. It also shows that local services on mobile devices are likely to diverge in potentially important ways from those on the PC.
Related: FourSquare in Canadian newspaper partnership. (This is model for the site going forward.)