Can Foursquare face down Facebook? - Mobile World Live

Can Foursquare face down Facebook?

23 AUG 2010

With the launch of its location-based Places service, Facebook’s grip on the future of digital communications looks set to tighten further still. To complete its web communications offering, Facebook seemingly just needs to build a voice-over-IP and video conferencing service or better still acquire and integrate Skype.

But I am getting ahead of myself and reality. The success of Places, and Facebook’s wider bid to dominate digital communications, depends upon people being happy to use one uber-service for all of their communications needs.

Having fiddled around with Facebook’s frequently-changing privacy settings in an attempt to make some of my posts visible to some friends and other posts visible to other friends, I am not convinced that Facebook can become a single all-encompassing communications service.

In an ideal and well-ordered world, I would connect with all my local friends on Foursquare, which I would use to arrange impromptu coffees, lunches or drinks and pass on tips about places to go in London. I would use Facebook to keep far-flung friends and relatives abreast of my family life, while Twitter and LinkedIn would be reserved for connecting with business contacts. Then I would use each service in an appropriate way without having to worry about boring people with irrelevant nonsense.

Bringing order to chaos
Of course, that hasn’t happened. Some work contacts have befriended me on Facebook and Foursquare, while friends have connected on LinkedIn, presumably because these services have asked for their permission to raid their email contact lists and then sent automated messages to everyone on them. But I do (one day) intend to bring some order to this chaos by sorting through, and where necessary, removing contacts, from each of these services.

In other words, unless I am a maverick, I don’t see Facebook completely dominating the digital communications of the future. Although Foursquare and Facebook Places, which both enable you to check-in to various locations and notify your contacts, are in direct competition, the former could survive the challenge from the world’s largest social network.

My friends in Edinburgh don’t want to know which London bar I’m in and I don’t have the patience to create lots of sub-lists within my Facebook friends to ensure they only see relevant posts. Unless Facebook radically overhauls its user interface, I think people will find the barrage of random information on their Facebook feed just too confusing and out-of-control.

While online services, such as Facebook and Google, naturally want to become one-stop-shops for both users and for advertisers, individuals naturally want to compartmentalise their lives and use different services for different scenarios. That is good news for both Foursquare and mobile operators pondering the threat to their messaging revenues from the world’s biggest social networks.


David Pringle


This article was first published on the GSMA’s Mobile World Live portal. David moderates discussion forums on the site and is a freelance media and investor relations consultant.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members



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