Foursquare and the future of check-ins

As Foursquare approaches six years old, co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley explained how the company has evolved over time and where it plans to head in the future at Gigaom’s Structure Data conference Wednesday.

Although Foursquare is a huge service now, it started off with a fairly simple idea. “The first two years of the company were about, let’s build this thing that can basically build a map of the world based upon the places that people go to,” said Crowley. “And let’s use game mechanics — points and badges and mayorships — as a way to incentivize people to hit that check-in button so we start to learn about the real world.”

Crowley thought the game mechanics would drop off over time, though he’s since realized they’ve become integral to Foursquare’s success. But he doesn’t want the company to be known as simply a glorified check-in service.

“The goal of the company was not to make an awesome check-in button. The goal of the company was, like, let’s make this social, crowdsourced map of the world and let’s use that to tell every single person in this room and everyone single person in the world, about all the interesting things they would find around them that they would otherwise normally miss.”

Crowley believes that a location-based service should understand what you’ve done and where you’ve been, and compare that experience with your friends and everyone else around you.

Future versions of Foursquare will be able to automatically check you in as you enter a location, and send you updates about where you are to your phone or wearable device.

“In a world where we don’t need people to [check in], I think it’s kind of fun to imagine what a future version of Foursquare would look like.”

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Photo courtesy of Jakub Mosur


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