Now, Foursquare has announced plans to split its core platform into two – creating a new mobile application called Swarm, in addition to Foursquare, which will continue in a new iteration. Swarm is expected to launch next week.
By unbundling its core offerings in response to waning enthusiasm, the company hopes to gain widespread adoption and to increase its utility to users seeking new modes of discovery. While Swarm will now be where users check-in, the Foursquare app will focus on exploration.
The new direction signals two major shifts for the company: A move toward the use of “ambient proximity” and a repositioning to tackle Yelp.
The idea of providing friends with a pinpoint location was the driver of early-adoption, but also proved to be an inhibiting one for converting the masses. Instead of using an exact location, Swarm will rely on the frictionless sharing of ambient proximity or a general location (think neighborhoods or districts) to drive connections with friends. Facebook has made a similar push through its new “Nearby Friends” feature. By using ambient proximity, Foursquare's new app aims to create a social heat map for its users. One the company hopes will feel more useful in connecting with friends and less creepy than previous iterations.
While the industry shift from sharing pinpoint locational data among friends to ambient proximity is an interesting talking point, the original Foursquare redesign could have the greatest effect on its bottom line and the bottom lines of businesses such as restaurants.
According The Verge, people around the Foursquare office have begun referring to its new iteration as a "Yelp-killer."
“If we all went to Google right now, or went to Yelp right now, we'd all get the same results, and that seems really broken to me,” Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said. “Foursquare should understand the neighborhoods I've spent a lot of time in, and the restaurants that I went to once but never went back to.”
By understanding these types of insights, the new Foursquare may be able to aid in the discovery of new places to eat through being able to predict a diner's taste based on where you or your friends have been. What makes all this possible are the billions of check-ins garnered over the past five years. These check-ins allowed for Foursquare to map locations anywhere. When a specific destination is entered into a smartphone, the Foursquare app will now know where a diner is visiting – even without them checking-in.
If Foursquare succeeds with its new plan, the impetus will fall on restaurant owners and staff to deliver positive dining experiences. The eateries that succeed in earning repeat visits from customers will be more likely to spread virally across a visitor's connections without the requirement of active social sharing, and vice versa. Similar to social media's impact across all sectors, the resulting transparency makes the margin for error increasingly small and the rewards for delivering even greater.