Foursquare

The next big social network will come from nowhere. Or at least that’s what most commentators will have you believe. Another Instagram that captures everyone’s imagination and becomes a runaway success. For me the next big social network already exists, it just needs to reframe itself to the public a little.

By those who don’t us it Foursquare is quickly derided as a way for people to show their friends the cool (and expensive) places they like to hang out, and I’d admit that on the surface that assessment isn’t far off.

“Oh look, X has just checked into Y Michelin starred restaurant again. Good for them”

However that misses a much deeper socially significant way that Foursquare fits into my life, and that’s as a diary. Given any date back to the start of 2009 I can quickly scan back through the places I’ve visited and remember the gigs I’ve been to, the nights out I’ve had, the meals I’ve eaten, often punctuated with the other people I’ve checked in with, the comments we left and the photos we took. Like many people, the places I go in my spare time are hugely defining in my social life and that makes Foursquare uniquely positioned to tell this story to my friends and family.

The problem is it doesn’t do this. In fact Foursquare profiles are a real disappointment. When’re are the oversized photos, tips and comments? All that is available is a list of checkins in chronological order with no way to search or filter the data in a meaningful way.

“What was a doing this time last year / month / week?

“What was that great restaurant I went to in Istanbul last year?”

These are the types of questions Foursquare could help you unlock in a way that no other social network can.

Foursquare is already one of the best tools out there for exploration. On every trip I’ve had this year it’s been my go-to source for recommendations. But it could offer so much more in the way of profiling, a kind of digital memory for places, which in my opinion could make it a rival for even the biggest of the social networks.

Daniel Bower

Blogging about platform regulation: algorithms, interoperability, kill zones as well as other bits and bobs. Read about my research, or read more about me.