30 Days Into the Cross-Pollination of Foursquare/Swarm

We’re now 30 days into Foursquare’s “unbundling” and launch of its new Swarm app. The move was pretty contentious, including lots of industry chatter and punditry. Asif Khan and I discussed it on stage last month at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local Conference in Atlanta.

Where does that leave us and what is the BIA/Kelsey take on where Foursquare should or could move from here? I examined all the moving parts (as best I could in 700 words) in my monthly Street Fight column. See below for an excerpt and click through for the full column.

We’ll continue to pay close attention to this key player in location based mobile media. Let us know your take.

Foursquare’s contentious app unbundling took place exactly one month ago. Timed incidentally with this monthly column and the eve of Street Fight Summit West, it could be a good time to examine the temperature from media, analysts like me, and — most of all — users. The latter is of course the key question.

Vitals include whether or not Foursquare die-hards will migrate to Swarm. More importantly, will peeling off social and location tracking features to Swarm make Foursquare proper the more broadly applicable and mainstream-friendly local discovery engine it’s hoping to be?

The yin and yang of Foursquare and Swarm will be the key to answering these questions. Foursquare VP of Sales Rob Wilk told BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local conference last month that the two apps will share the same data backbone. And it will be a rich one, based on the pervasive behavioral tracking of Swarm’s intended power users.

Backing up, Foursquare has been saying for years that it wants to move away from the check-in and be known as a local discovery engine that’s fueled by all that past check-in data. I’ve always thought this to be logically flawed because what will be the source of ongoing data (local data requires a high refresh rate) if it kills the check-in?

Swarm is the answer to that question. If it’s able to scale usage, pervasive tracking will create one of the richest and constantly refreshed behavioral data sets in local (Facebook’s proximity play looms with massive volume). Then Foursquare can become the predictive engine that Dennis Crowley told me three years ago that he wanted to build.

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