If you didn't know, Foursquare is breaking up, but in a constructive way.

It's not you, it's them, but don't worry, the whole thing is amicable. The company is splitting its app in two for the better, sort of like those couples that sleep in separate beds, only converging for sex, and so getting more sleep and clarity in the process.

This follows somewhat of a trend for unbundling or simply creating discrete products or tools, much as apps were first envisaged.

The trend can be seen chiefly at Facebook, with its Messenger and Paper, and perhaps Twitter's Vine. Obviously, Google is the epitome of a multipronged company, with a list of products shorter only than those discarded.

Foursquare has become Swarm and Foursquare. Swarm is a tool for social heatmapping, where all checking-in and socialising will occur, and was launched at the beginning on May 2014. Foursquare will be relaunched as what the company quietly refers to as a 'Yelp killer', a tool for local search and discovery.

Here are a few questions I have asked and in some cases attempted to answer.

1. Could Foursquare be king of loyalty?

Foursquare's website states:

In the new Foursquare (coming this summer), we’ve also built the spiritual successor to badges. Badges were always meant to recognize and reward people who would seek out and find awesome things in the real world, and we found a great new way to do that. Stay tuned for more!

This makes me wonder if Foursquare plans to kill the loyalty space. There's no doubt that in bigger cities in 2011, merchants tried to use Foursquare to gamify patronage. Many gave free stuff to 'mayors'.

The old platform rewarded points for all sorts of check-ins. The new Foursquare won't have check-ins, but surely it's the perfect app (local search) for including coupons or rewards? Push notifications could be very effective as the user already associates the service with locality.

2. Are user interfaces converging?

Look at the screenshot below. To me it looks a lot like Twitter and like messaging apps such as Line. That's probably a good thing for the user and I'd imagine a good thing for Swarm and Foursquare as they seek to find new users.

No longer, as was the case with old Foursquare, do users have orientation and UX as a potential barrier to adoption.

swarm screenshot

3. How will the new Foursquare beat Google and Yelp?

Foursquare's local search tool is designed to beat Google and Yelp. Part of its approach is to personalise recommendations by where you've been and what you've done in the past (as well as your friends).

Although this sounds persuasive, isn't this what Google has already mastered in mobile search and is trying to take to the next level with Google Now?

In mobile search, Google will give me suggestions nearby and show me reviews on G+, or friends' +1s. With Google Now, access to my calendar and previous behaviour will tailor suggestions, too.

Where Foursquare may win is that the service is more niche in functionality. Therefore, perhaps it can become front of mind for local recommendations, especially if it nails this predictive intelligence.

4. Do we want to know who is nearby?

First off, I'm not being sceptical about the USP of Swarm. I certainly think there are big demographics that do want to know where all their friends are. If this functionality had been around when I was at University, I'm sure students would have jumped on it.

I get the feeling Swarm will be a marmite product - people will firmly opt in or steer clear. There are many people I know who appreciate a certain ambiguity in their whereabouts, though it must be said, Swarm doesn't pinpoint people (unless they check-in), merely highlights those within a range.

Users have the option to turn off 'neighborhood sharing' if they don't want others to know where they are, though this would leave only check-in functionality and, of course, the ability to see what others are up to.

This simple functionality will likely play in Swarm's favour as younger users might start to use it as a 'where and what and how often' bible.

swarm app

5. Does social heatmapping require widespread adoption of Swarm?

Social networks need to take off sharply or they suffer for the lack of adoption. Twitter is having these pains at the moment. If all your friends are on Facebook, it can be difficult to tempt them over to another network.

Arguably this could be a bigger problem for Swarm. The app is designed to tell you who is nearby, but this functionality won't actually work until some of your friends are using the tool, too.

Yes, all Foursquare users are already signed up to Swarm, but there's still a job to do in user growth hacking. The social side of old Foursquare was fairly poorly used, with a lot of people simply syncing check-ins to Twitter. Swarm has been created precisely to hit this social nail on its head.

Swarm's chiefs have stated that they think key to the experience on Swarm is that friend numbers won't mass as large as they do on Facebook, as we'll only want to meet up with real friends. This at least may lower this adoption barrier and, like WhatsApp, encourage groups of friends to get on board.


Ben Davis

Published 30 May, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

1244 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (7)

Save or Cancel

Judy haystrand

I'm so disappointed that the gaming aspect and self competition is lost now. Badges and mayorships was a great way to play a game, for those of us who really don't play games. Also you could see where friends were and reach out accordingly. I don't travel more than an average amount, and not international, so many of the new features are not for me. I will give this a bit longer but most likely myself and many friends will be leaving for good. Very sad, because you ruined a really good thing

about 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Interesting to hear your feedback.

Mayorships still exist, though amongst friends, and new badges will be available, but both through Swarm.

To your point, indeed the team specifically looked to kill gamification in the Foursquare app proper.

Thanks for commenting.

about 4 years ago


Thomas Stott, eMarketer at 3M Direct (3M UK)

What's the difference between swarm and swarmly?! Is this a copy of a UK based startup or is there an agreement in place? Name, branding, everything is similar?!

about 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Interesting! Mashable covered it here http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/02/foursquare-swarms-over-swarmly/

about 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

*Techcrunch rather

about 4 years ago

Per Pettersson

Per Pettersson, SEO Consultant at Curamando

It's an interesting move. I will continue using Foursquare for exploring new places and areas, but checking in? Nah, that part is dead.

about 4 years ago

Howard Moorey

Howard Moorey, Founder at Hojomo Group

Have been a staunch Foursquare supporter almost since launch, but have to agree with Judy & Per - the changes are a step too far!
I managed to use (old) Foursquare as an evolving social club, with connections/friends all over the world. It was always a richer experience when there were photos included, and, as a marketer at heart, I was keen for bricks & mortar places to use it too.
All this seems to have been washed away now - I, and I'm sure many others, won't be interested in using two apps to do the job of one. So have started the hunt for a viable alternative. Any suggestions greatly appreciated!
Thanks for the post Ben ;)

about 4 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.