Foursquare last night unveiled a new video that appears on their logged out homepage. It gives users a sense of what foursquare is really about, but perhaps most telling are the things that aren’t mentioned.
As you’d expect, the new video focuses heavily on the recommendations aspect of foursquare. It also speaks to keeping up with your friends with photos and comments and redeeming deals offered by local businesses. In the 59 second video, “check in” is used exactly once (and then only in reference to unlocking specials).
Compare that to their previous video, created in April of 2010:
Checking in is mentioned at least five times by name, and referred to in other ways a few more times than that. Badges, points and mayorships take up a hefty portion of the old video,Â but you won’t find a single mention of them in the new one.
With this video, foursquare has distanced themselves as far as they can from many of the things they originally became known for, when they were often referred to as a “check-in service” or a “location-based game.” It now reflects more closely what foursquare’s founders wanted to build all along â€” a social city guide â€” and lays out exactly where the service is headed.
When you look at those two videos side by side, it almost appears that the company has executed one of the most artful startup pivots ever, but that’s not the case at all. Those check-ins, points, badges and mayorships were never anything more than a ploy to get people to keep pulling out their phones and sending their location to foursquare, all while the company was building up the huge data set they needed to power recommendations and other features.
Listen closely to the old video and you’ll hear a lot of the same ideas presented in the new one, like recommendations and “making your city easier to use.” There’s no mistaking that foursquare was on exactly the same path then as they are now.
Sure, the badges and mayorships are a fun diversion, but the real meat of foursquare has been, and always will be, the tips and recommendations they’re able to provide. Foursquare won’t kill the gaming aspects anytime soon (if ever), but they’ll continue to take a back seat.
So, is the check-in dead? No, not at all. It’s evolving. Foursquare has transitioned to a service where you can get value, in the form of recommendations, without ever checking in. Check-ins, though, will remain an important part of the service. They keep the huge data monster fed and happy, after all. Foursquare must (and no doubt will) find ways to make checking in a more natural act to keep them coming.
In many ways, this video is the culmination of everything we’ve seen from foursquare over the last few weeks. They’re finally coming out of the closet, so to speak, and telling the world what they’re really about. It’s been a long time coming.
PS I think I’m in love with the dancing burrito.