Foursquare is a fast-growing social network that integrates status updates and whimsical reward “badges” with location-based services. The Foursquare app for Android uses your phone’s GPS feature to track your location, showing you people and places nearby. You can integrate it with your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts and then automatically push your Foursquare shouts (updates) into those networks.
The first time you open Foursquare, the app prompts you to log in or create a new account. To create an account, you enter your name, e-mail address, and birth date, and then choose a password. You can pick a profile photo from your phone’s Gallery if you wish. And you can have the app scan your phone’s address book to see if you already have friends on Foursquare. Another option is to link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to see if any of those friends are on Foursquare. You can also search by name or phone number, and invite people who aren’t on Foursquare yet to join.
The app’s home screen is organized into five tabs: Friends, Places, Tips, To-Do, and Me. The Friends tab is subdivided into Recent (sort of a news feed of your friends’ status updates) and Nearby. The Places tab yields a list of nearby businesses and points of interest. If you click a Place listing, you get the option to check in, leave a tip (review), or call with your phone. You can also read tips left by other Foursquare users. If you check in to a Place location more times than anyone else, you become the Mayor of that Place, a title that conveys no actual authority.
The Tips tab is a list of reviews of local Places. The To-Do tab is a list of Places you have marked as destinations you would like to visit. The Me tab is a history of your shouts, Check Ins and Tips.
As you continue to check in and leave tips, you begin to unlock various “reward” badges. The meaning of these badges is generally rather cryptic and seems a bit silly to me.
As I see it, Foursquare has five main uses: It serves as a crowd-based discovery and rating system for local businesses. It provides a way to coordinate spontaneous gatherings of friends. It provides a location-based means to befriend new people. It can serve as a public journal of your daily activities. And it can serve as a platform for location-based advertising.
On the negative side, stalkers might use it as a tool for harassing their victims. You should think twice about this issue before you dive into Foursquare. Though the app is interesting and potentially useful, posting your physical location and activities on the World Wide Web has privacy implications.
You might also want to check out a similar app called Loopt.
If you know of another location-based social networking app, contact Brent W. Hopkins on Facebook or on Twitter as @brentwhopkins.
Check out other articles by Brent W. Hopkins.