Geolocation Technology: Foursquare vs Facebook
The Geolocation battle (techology that can pinpoint your location in real time) is heating up. Facebook held a press conference on Aug 18 to announce a new feature called Places. It's a check in type service similar (almost the exact same thing) to what Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp offer. Representatives from each of those companies stood in front of the press and explained how "happy" they were to be partnering with Facebook. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley looked especially unexcited about the gathering. It's no wonder why, Facebook has the market strength to squash Foursquare like a bug. It's got size, longevity, and popularity in it's favor. Ask the average person what Foursquare is and they may make reference to a childhood game. Only 4% of adults use check in services and only 1% use a location based check in service on a daily basis.
Has Facebook places been a success? It's questionable. Foursquare seems to be doing just fine. What many (myself included) predicted would be a Foursquare killer, Places has been just a nice extra feature. It's just another small step in Facebook's mission to develop features and technology that will change the world. It's being used, but not with gusto. Foursquare only has 4 million users, but those users can check in, win badges, earn mayorships, and receive check in specials at select locations.
This week the tables were turned. Facebook let its true intentions be known as it announced Facebook Deals. Facebook Deals are as simple as the title suggests. Check in and win. Check in and save. It's an incentive to get users using Places. Right now Deals is only available in the U.S. and covers a wide range of businesses. Be one of the first 10,000 to check into Gap and get free blue jeans. Check into Macy's and receive 20% off select merchandise. Go to Starbucks, North Face, or McDonald's and $1 will be donated to a select charity. Users now have big reason to use Places and experts are predicting they will in large numbers.
What's going to happen next? Facebook Deals will continue to roll out and small business will join in. Foursquare has offered their service for awhile, but still continues to be a niche application. The technology is identical, but the Foursquare name holds less weight than Facebooks. One can only guess if Deals will be a Foursquare killer. Smaller services such as SCVNGR, Loopt, and Whrrl have survived, so it's highly unlikely that Foursquare will go away. Fortunately or unfortunately, Facebook has the numbers to become the leading check in service. The real question will be to see if Foursquare can remain relative and continue to come out with new features that will make it a worthwhile competitor. Only time will tell.