A couple of years ago, it was common to see many people whip out their phones when they arrived at a place and ‘check in’ their location, letting their contacts know where they were. The app that made this famous was Foursquare and for a while, it certainly was synonymous with checking into different locations, appointing frequent visitors with ‘mayorships’ of places and allowing you to leave tips, reviews and photographs of the places you visited, with frequent visits sometimes even getting you some special concessions (an extra cappuccino, a touch extra discount and so on). It was a rage for a while and then others – most notably Facebook- got into the act. It was time for Foursquare to go for a spot of reinvention and this it has done in the most radical manner possible manner – by ditching the check in feature altogether.
Well, it is not as drastic as that. A new app called Hive which is more people oriented takes care of the check-ins now, but while in the previous version of Foursquare, one did have an option to hit the check in button and get taken to Swarm, the new Foursquare (it has a new logo too! has no check in option whatsoever on the surface (dig a layer deep into a specific place and you will get a check in option that will drag you to Hive, though) . What it does have, however, is a lot of information about places that interest you which happen to be in your vicinity. The app starts off by asking you about your interests. For some reason, it seems to assume that most of these revolve around food, but you can search and add other interests too if you are not the fanatical about food types.
That done, you pretty much are set. Every time you launch the app, you will get suggestions about places that might interest you in the vicinity, along with tips and ratings and recommendations left for you by those you follow and other members of the community. Quite simply, this is the ‘place’ section of Foursquare, while Hive has become the people section. You have the option to search for a place, write tips, add on ratings and so on. And in the place of the Mayorship of the past, you now have levels of expertise, although what these will entail you to is not clear of now (we could see nothing in particular in India at the time of writing).
And that in essence is the new Foursquare for you: an app that tells you about places that match your interest in your vicinity and recommended by those you follow. The interface has been totally reworked and now when you launch the map, you no longer are confronted by a map but by a set of colourful tiles containing information on places near you. You can swipe to the right and left to see different categories of places – Food, Coffee, Nightlife, Shopping, Fun and Sights are the categories out there. Below the tiles are a list of popular searches of places nearby. Everything is designed to poke you to find some place interesting.
The big question of course, is: does it work? Well, we are not too sure to be honest. For, while there is no doubt that the app does hand out decent information, a lot of us have got accustomed to heading to a Zomato or a Yelp and have got apps for them already. And then there is the little matter of mapping apps that come with interesting locations marked out. The new interface of the app will take some getting used to for hardcore Foursquare users, many of whom we suspect will hark to Hive for a dose of the good old ‘check in’ spirit. And that we actually think is the single most crucial flaw in the new Foursquare – the absence of personal social networking.
In a way, the app has become more of a “to read” rather than a “to do” app. The stress has shifted from finding out who is near to finding out what is near you, with sister app Swarm taking care of the who. Given our long association with the original Foursquare, we must confess to not feeling totally at home with its new avatar. But then, if you are the type that likes to discover places you can visit based on the recommendations of your friends, then this is quite a handy app to have.