Foursquare. You can check in any time you like, but you can never lead

So, this week’s Mobile World Congress is over and the weary delegates, fresh from their triumphs, trailers, tapas and teasers are on their way home. I would have been there with them but I was washing my hair all week.

According to the organisers, there was a record attendance of 60,000 at the event and more than 2,900 journalists, a perfect audience possibly for the location-based service of Foursquare. Apparently not.

During the show, the highest amount of delegates who checked in using the service was little more than 500, a penetration of less than 1% at the world’s biggest mobile event. The decision-makers couldn’t be arsed with Foursquare. Sorry, can’t resist it… you can check in any time you like but you can never lead, boom-boom.

Hands-up, I’ve always had a problem with Foursquare. I recently spent two years in India and there Foursquare is a brand of cigarette. It comes in a pack of ten, in a green packet and the penetration rate among Indian smokers is much higher than its location equivalent in Barcelona.

When I began to court Twitter at the end of 2009 and began an affair with TweetDeck that is as passionate and deep-rooted as my REAL love for Mad Men, I would become unbearably angry when nominal adults boasted of Foursquare badges or a bloody gubernatorial land-grab in a Middle England commuting new town.

Granted, I felt out of the loop because I was in India and the only location-based service there was my toothless driver who didn’t have a wife or a set of clean clothes, but had every TV sports channel in his hut down the road. But it would appear I’m not alone.

A recent Nokia, er I mean Microsoft, poll revealed that 52% of people are concerned about sharing their location and 81% about loss of privacy, let alone 100% of me who just thinks it’s stupid.

In the industry, notable mobile figures such as Mark Urban who made a bundle when he sold his business to Yahoo are similarly downbeat. In a recent interview he says that he doesn’t believe location-based companies can exist as standalone companies and will end up selling to Google or Facebook (like most companies in the world).

But Facebook Places is no better, it’s even more annoying because it allows your Facebook friend to check YOU into a location. And while that may have its comic virtues such as checking homophobic ‘friend’ into gay bar etc, enough already of the location-based services. Foursquare, Schmoursquare… on the road to nowhere.

Monty (643 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.


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About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.