What’s Foursquare For?

Foursquare (logo)

Depending which day of the week you catch me on, I take a different view of location check-in services. I’m generally disdainful of Facebook check-ins, because I don’t want to tell everyone where I am all of the time. But, for some reason, I will happily check in on Foursquare. Perhaps it’s the fun of winding my friend up when he discovers I’m the mayor in another of his favourite locations… or perhaps it’s some contrary tendency on my part (most likely).

After a while, though, I do start to ask “why am I doing this again?”. Scott Monty, head of Social Media for Ford Motor Company (US) recently posted something on his blog that kind of kickstarted my thinking a little. Head on over and have a read or, if you don’t want to right now, check out this video:

So, the point of Foursquare isn’t just to check in and claim mayorships of venues (although that’s part of the game), it’s also about discovering new locations, creating recommendations for friends, meeting up with them, and earning rewards. Starts to sound a little more interesting now, doesn’t it?

The question I’ve got is, does Foursquare work when you don’t have many local friends on it, or your local businesses are not offering deals? The only function remaining, then, is to discover new venues based on what the general public have been checking in to and, I guess, that works. I’ve found new locations around town based on them showing up in the “Nearby Places” list, and have made decisions on whether to go there based on random people’s tips. It’s obviously a reduced experience, but it still works.

But, still, the biggest thing for me is that lovely moment when my friend turns to me and says, “no way… you’re the mayor here too!?”

What do you think of Foursquare, or of check-in services in general? Do they work for helping people find new venues, and helping businesses find new customers? Do they require critical mass of people and places to work well? Or is the whole thing a bit creepy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

Google Latitude released for iPhone & iPod Touch

Google have finally released Latitude, their location tracking and sharing service, for iPhone and iPod Touch – but as a webapp rather than a native application. Why? The Google Mobile blog tells us:

We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.

Whilst this means you can’t leave Latitude running as an always-on service it doesn’t diminish the concept too much. Point your iPhone to www.google.com/latitude and your location will be updated using the iPhone’s GPS, plotting you and your friends on a map.

One thing that I thought was particularly cool about this is that you can get directions to your friends – so if you’re trying to meet up but aren’t sure how to get there you’ll get the turn-by-turn instructions much as you would within the Maps application.

I have noticed a few bugs and freezes when using the friends list, such as people turning up in the list several times, but hopefully these will be sorted as Latitude’s development continues.

BUT… why would you want to use this? Well it’s useful for stalking… or… Actually, I don’t think I’d use this particularly often but, perhaps, if I’m away with a group of friends and have got separated from them, or when I’m travelling to my parents’ house in the south of England and want them to be able to see how far away I am. This isn’t going to get everyday use, but it’s a cool piece of technology and it will be useful from time to time.

Latitude is available for iPhone, Blackberry, Android phones, iPod Touch, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. There’s also a desktop version, so there’s no excuse for not taking a peek at it yourself :)

Do you want more on the iPhone? Find our best iPhone posts here.