by: Karl Long
Foursquare appears to be a wonderful evolution of Dodgeball, a much loved service that Google bought a couple of years ago but didn’t fund, and eventually shut down at the beginning of March. Dodgeball was a super simple SMS based service that you would send a text message to with the name of the venue you were at, and then dodgeball sent a richer text message to your friends letting them know the name and address of where you were at.
Zeitgeist in San Francisco was the most “checked in” place and there was an unofficial Dodgeball closing party there on the night Dodgeball was finally closed. It was at this party that I started hearing rumors of a new service called Foursquare which was supposedly being worked on by the previous founders of dodgeball.
On March 10th the New York Observer wrote an article about this new service and described it as “dodgeball on steroids”, like Dodgeball but with a fun ‘metagame’ associated with it.
You should be rewarded for going out more times than your friends, and hanging out with new people and going to new restaurants and going to new bars–just experiencing things that you wouldn’t normally do.” So, a game that rewards being adventurous and outgoing in, you know, real life?
I won’t go into all the details but one feature that I love is that if you ‘check in’ the most at a particular location you are named ‘mayor’ of it, but you can’t rest on your laurels because people are competing to take that away
I’ve been talking about and thinking about game mechanics in social networks for a couple of years now ever since seeing the ShuffleBrain presentation at GDC, and this is the first social network that seems to have explicitly built this into their design making the social network a ‘big game’. Anyone who plays games like Xbox or WOW no how addictive small rewards can be and i’ll be fascinated to see how it plays out in real life.
Having had a preview I can say that I think that Foursquare may well take SXSW by storm just like Twitter did a couple of years ago, and speaking of twitter they have made some very creative use of the API like having the option to send ‘check ins’ via direct message etc. I recomend you look out for this, it will be out tomorrow as an iPhone application, but as was Dodgeball it is SMS that will become the primary interface for most people.