Go back three years ago. Twitter was being used by the same crowd that is playing with Foursquare today.
What is Foursquare? It’s a location game. When I visit somewhere, like Sequoia Hospital, where I’m hanging out with Maryam (we’re having a baby sometime in the next 24 hours) I check in on Foursquare.
What does that do? It gives me points and lets other people know where I am.
It sounds really lame, doesn’t it? But didn’t Twitter sound really lame to you when someone first told you about it?
It’s not lame.
Already I’ve met people because of the game and it’s weirdly fun.
The game gives you points for doing various checkins. If you do a lot of checkins everyday you get more points. You also get badges (which are sort of like achievements on Xbox games) for doing various things. For instance, I checked in so much at the Half Moon Bay Ritz that I became the Mayor of that location. It’s a lot of fun and great bragging rights.
Yeah, still sounds lame, huh?
But I think this lame little location game is going to be bigger than Twitter.
Why? Because eventually businesses will learn that this is an even better way to engage with customers than Twitter is.
Why? Because when you know your customers location the way this game is going to let you know you can really do some wild offers. Plus, I bet that they add in their own Twitter-style feature that will let people talk with each other.
I wonder if Twitter will build in its own version of Foursquare into Twitter? So far Twitter hasn’t built in any location-based services (other than to add in a new API which has yet to be turned on in any real way) so who knows?
Either way, this thing is growing remarkably quickly, just like Twitter did back in 2006. Now that Foursquare has funding, too, I expect to see more cities and more features turned on.
Why is Foursquare more useful than, say, Google’s Latitude? Well, you choose the moments and places you check into. With Latitude, if you leave it on and head to, say, an adult establishment, everyone will know. With Foursquare no one would know, unless you clicked checkin on your phone.
What about competitors, like Gowalla? I’ve been playing with Gowalla too and it doesn’t have the gameplay yet, which I’ve found is critical to getting me to use Foursquare. It also doesn’t have either the community (I already have about 1,000 early-adopter friends on Foursquare, but only a handful of friends on Gowalla) or the business listings that Foursquare has (every place I’ve visited today was easier to find on Foursquare than on Gowalla).
The really scary thing is how FourSquare could become a much better Yelp than Yelp. Or will know more about me than even Facebook. Think about what the stores and places you go says about you! Think about the advertising Starbucks could do with you if it knows you go into a competitor for coffee every morning at about 8 a.m.!
I see all sorts of things that can come out of this little “lame” game. Twitter better watch out. I give Foursquare 400 more days before it is on Oprah.
How about you?