Feature Friday: Checking In

For the past three months, I have been checking in to locations with a different app than Foursquare. Yesterday, that app launched publicly. It is called Swarm and it’s pretty awesome.

Swarm is all about checking in and knowing where your friends are. This is the thing I love most about Foursquare. But it turns out that many people don’t want to do this. So Foursquare is removing this feature and all the stuff around it from the Foursquare app and has put it into a new app.

As Foursquare becomes more about search and discovering places, the checkin features got buried deeper and deeper in that app. It became harder to checkin and the value from checking in was less front and center.

Swarm changes all of that. Checking in and following friends around the city and around the world is the sole purpose of the Swarm app.

Swarm is fast, Swarm is simple, Swarm is smart. If you are like me and love to checkin and share where you are with your friends, check it out.

Swarm and Foursquare also represents a new trend in mobile apps. I have been calling this trend App Constellations. Facebook now has a collection of mobile apps that share a single login and have app to app linking built in. Google has a collection of mobile apps that share a single login and have app to app linking built in. Twitter seems headed in this direction with Vine. And Dropbox also seems headed in this direction too. Now we can add Foursquare to this group.

Putting a ton of functionality into a single app is not the right way to do it on mobile. Having a constellation of mobile apps that all work tightly with each other seems to be the better way. And the leading mobile app companies are all headed in that direction now. Pay attention to this trend.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I’m the unaccustomed newbie here as I’m still in the single use phase of mobile behavior.Of all the constellations I want, transportation–CitiBike, HopStop, Hailo/Uber–is the one that feels natural to me.

    1. jason wright

      i don’t have a smart phone. the brand new LTE version of the Moto G may change that. i’m looking forward to being a newbie, an android mobile newbie.

    2. fredwilson

      Uber is certainly trying to run the table on that constellation

      1. kenberger

        Certainly– changing their name from ubercar to uber gave that away early.But surely Uber is only going to link to its own other brands– vertical, not horizontal as in awaldstein’s example.A super interesting oppty this concept gives rise to is that companies that might otherwise be arch-rivals could work cooperatively: you focus on bikes, I’ll do transit, and link together. An alliance section of a constellation vs a department store anchor tenant.

  2. jason wright

    how long has Swarm been in development, and is this the Foursquare news you alluded to a few weeks ago?”App Constellations” – is this a form of multi branding, a defensive strategy to keep the ankle biter down?

    1. fredwilson

      Foursquare has been working on the multi app strategy for most of this year

  3. William Mougayar

    Another mobile trend is inter-app integration. I like that you can get to Foursquare from Swarm (e.g. check out a venue on Foursquare), then Back to Swarm, seamlessly, as if it was a single app.Note that you need to Update your Foursquare app to make the back and forth work properly. Otherwise, you’ll be on a one-way trip to Foursquare without going back to Swarm.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s what i meant by app to app linking in my post. I agree that this is a big trend. We are getting a Web like experience in native mobile but at this point it will be limited to the apps in a single constellation

      1. William Mougayar

        Yep. And Google is taking stabs at that approach with Mobile Web to Mobile App direct linkage, eg search for a restaurant then click & reserve in the OpenTable App.

  4. Brad Dickason

    App intra-action is one of those things that is rarely done well, but when it is, provides such a wonderful experience. I hope apple does more to enable this type of intra-app API because it’s incredibly hard to do on iOS devices. This is one of the places I envy android owners as there seems to be a much clearer set of interfaces between apps.Some early examples of interesting interaction are:Twitter: tap and hold to send to pocket1password: sync pass via DropboxSadly I can’t think of too many more :(These small ‘app constellations’ are directly in line with the Unix philosophy (modules that do one thing and only one thing well and have a set of standard interfaces to be chained together). I’m hoping that as it becomes easier to string apps together, we’ll see even smaller apps emerge to do tiny tasks and other apps to combine them into great experiences. The question is, will appl allow apps that do just one small thing to pass their verification?

  5. Mario Cantin

    Giving it the name “app constellation” is brilliant.

    1. fredwilson

      ThanksI have been working on a longer post on app constellations and what they mean for mobile generally but its not done

      1. J Nicholas Gross

        “constellation” is a great visual descriptor”confederations” or “cohorts” might connote their purpose/function better but less aesthetic I guess

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Studying the stars recently Fred? 🙂

      3. stevanpopo

        I look forward to seeing that post Fred. I think app constellations is an interesting concept, but at what point does the separation become too much. Is having a plethora of apps that do only one thing the best way? or a technical limitation of technology right now?

      4. Michael Elling

        Do you think markets/exchanges will evolve? Could be clearinghouse platforms for future north-south, east-west clearing of supply and demand in the informational stack as IP lacks price signals. Don’t have to think just apps, but infrastructures as well.

  6. JimHirshfield

    So now Foursquare needs to emphasize what their core mission is. How do they intend to do that?

  7. dovcohn

    It will be interesting to see if Swarm is any more relevant/successful than Highlight or the other social location sharing apps. I feel like the time is right now for this.One of the added benefits of the app constellation approach is that for apps 2 to N, the developer has an installed user base that they can very cost effectively market to. Getting critical mass on new apps is so difficult now, being an incumbent with a user base of 5/10/100MM users to cross sell/up sell is a huge advantage for every subsequent app you develop.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. That’s a very important part of the constellation strategy. I plan to write more about this in the coming weeks

  8. JLM

    .I recently acquired a Slab o’ Cheese smartphone. See it compared to its predecessor.It has made the whole mobile experience different and better.Convergence, it is what’s for breakfast (plus poached eggs and grapefruit apparently).JLM.

  9. JLM

    .Deleted, sort of.JLM.

    1. jason wright

      what kind of smartphone is that?

      1. JLM

        .Samsung Slab o Cheese? GS?JLM.

        1. jason wright

          GS?the S5 reminds me of a bar of chocolate.

    2. jason wright

      devoured.egg on toast?

      1. JLM


  10. Aaron Klein

    I have a feeling some will overthink this and start believing the key to success is having two or more apps. The truth is, it’s all about user intention.The best mobile experiences harness one user intention and provide a magic button that makes it happen.I can see this working well for Foursquare, but it depends how great the other app turns out to be. That’s the one driving the revenue, after all.

    1. awaldstein

      No question.But some categories logically connect. Transportation is one. I could even see a constellation of financial ones potentially understanding the issues of common interface and the rest

      1. Aaron Klein

        Agreed. But I could make the argument that with transportation, I have one seamless intention: I want to get from A to B. I shouldn’t have to open three apps to check different options.With finance, I could have a number of intentions. Check my balance and pay bills. Invest. Make a savings plan. You could make a solid argument that you need a constellation for intentions that diverse.

    2. fredwilson

      I agree. But for those who have achieved this multiple times the constellation approach is powerful

      1. Aaron Klein

        Agreed. The user intention of sharing location vs. finding a great sushi place are very different. I think Foursquare may really be on to something here.

        1. fredwilson

          I hope so!

    3. Elia Freedman

      I’m waiting for this pendulum to swing back the other way.

    4. Scott27

      I think you’re on to something. When I read Fred’s post, I kept thinking that the constellation approach might work best with clearly-defined consumer “feature” type applications and perhaps not as well with enterprise applications where the value is in having the ability to see related data or execute related transactions.By way of example, if a bank had a constellation of apps for checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, investment accounts, paying bills, and taking out mortgages respectively, I’d probably have to switch banks. Yet, having a primary app for banking transactions within my own profile and a separate banking app for peer-to-peer transfers might make lot of sense.I’m not exactly sure where the line is, but expect consumers and businesses will continue to explore different alternatives to find a balance.

      1. David Bressler

        Scott – here’s a great example… Hotel Tonight (to which I am NOT affiliated).Every travel portal lets you find a hotel tonight. Hotel Tonight focuses only on that experience, and as a result is doing great. They don’t have the cheapest hotels, or the best inventory, but it’s the easiest way to find a good hotel for the night.Hotel Tonight is taking away biz from those portals… even though they could do it too. Who’s going to take business away from the banks… well, Kickstarter already replaces loans, and betterment replaces investing… When you focus on a singular experience, you can do things that you can’t otherwise do.db

        1. Scott27

          Thanks DB – Great example.I think it comes down to what the customer is looking for in their experience. If I’m in town and want a hotel, literally tonight, then Hotel Tonight is a great option. If I want to book a honeymoon, complete with airfare, activities, and the whole nine yards, then I want a more full-service experience (whether in a more complete app or through a specialist). All can be very successful, if executed to meet a customer need.The customer need may be the crux of the matter. If I want to see how I look financially and transfer funds between my own accounts, pay bills, etc, then I may prefer an app that does all of those things from one screen, whether from my bank, or Mint, or some other service. If all I’m looking to do is check a stock price, then there are plenty of apps for that on a stand alone basis, which may not necessitate the levels of authentication required to get into my banking/investment apps.There’s an graphic which shows a number of different businesses which have been successful by specializing on a particular part of Craiglists’ offerings (http://www.businessinsider….. All are interesting businesses. Maybe if Craigslist had created an app constellation instead of sticking with their historical approach it’d be a more valuable company or maybe users would have abandoned the site entirely in favor of specialist applications or services.-SS

          1. David Bressler

            Well said. We’ll never know about Craigslist.I think two things are important:1. When it comes to the way IT traditionally delivers technology to an enterprise (I realize I’m shifting gears here to IT and enterprise tech)… they think ‘everything for everyone”. Literally, the expense report interface is the same as the interface accountants use for reporting public company financials to the SEC, and the same interface that HR uses to manage the employee lifecycle. How much time could be saved with a constellation of apps designed for employee efficiency (uh, I mean user experience)? And, of course, what changes will that require by IT to survive (if every application today becomes 5 or 10 or more apps… how is that supported, managed, updated?).2. Facebook is particularly interesting because after their IPO there were major concerns about their relevance in a mobile world. They’ve been very successful… first by making apps native, then by fragmenting the apps into multiple experiences. Facebook is a leader in mobile success, and even if our use cases aren’t exact… there’s something we can learn from them. (My challenge was that people I work with couldn’t make the leap from Facebook to banking, I needed the Hotel Tonight example to make the leap easier so that people could understand why this is important.)When it comes to your example of checking a stock price, vs trading… a few things:1. Many financial companies are adopting an attitude of “just enough authentication” — they’ll share the last 5 transactions with your Facebook login, but you’ll need your bank’s login to act on the account or see more.2. Banks, in particular, assume customers will come to them. They act like non-SaaS enterprise companies with ELA’s (Enterprise License Agreements) & maintenance revenue streams. They’re going to get disrupted if they don’t think differently. They need to obsess over the customer doing anything financial outside of their banks, understand it, and bring customers in sooner. Why don’t any of the banks let people do budgeting, or financial education, or credit card fraud tracking on the bank’s platform? Wouldn’t you think that they’d not want people managing their money outside of the bank’s control? Wouldn’t a bank, that knows your payment history, be able to add value to Level (a cash flow management app)? Wouldn’t a bank want to leverage BillGuard as a way to reduce their fraud costs, and understand customer behaviors? That doesn’t even cover digital wallets or P2P payments, or the amazing stuff happening in Asia riding on top of the messaging apps/platforms. I mean, there are so many options and opportunities… and the banks are sitting back and nickel & diming customers on fees? Their biggest “idea” is photo-check deposit? But they can’t even figure out the behavior behind it… and that people are uncomfortable with endorsed checks lying around their home… they’d rather go to an ATM and make a deposit to have a paper trail (market research shows that penetration of photo-check deposit has stalled).Anyways, I feel this is a bit of a rant – I don’t mean it to be. There’s so much opportunity, the challenge is (for all industries) to realize that Mobile is different than Web… that just because one web site was OK, one mobile app is probably not. That transparency driven by a socially connected world is going to expose banks’ practices to have to change. That millennial attitudes are different, but it’s a great opportunity to be a new kind of company – transparent, with values, and one who partners with customers to make a fair profit.Ok, really stopping now. Hope someone finds this useful. If not, flag it and I’ll delete.David Bressler

      2. Eyal Megged

        Carousel is another interesting example in this context. It’s tackling two clearly defined user needs – photo management and photo sharing. However, bundling the two is not the ideal setup for some users.One user’s frustration – http://www.nytimes.com/2014…And some thoughts about the reasons for it (this post addresses a broader topic; Carousel is the first app discussed) – http://mokriya.quora.com/De

    5. Matt A. Myers

      Those who best understand the nuances, the base leading metrics, will have more finely engraved keys to unlock success.

    6. Semil Shah

      For a star to break into a constellation, it needs a density of use/attention, and only a few apps even have a chance at that.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        I wonder how a blackhole metaphor could fit into this picture..

        1. fl1nty

          Not on the first or the second page of the phone is the equivalent of being in a blackhole. Never to be seen again

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Well, perhaps a better analogy would be that is deep space – as a blackhole is all consuming.

  11. kenberger

    With Swarm, they’ve added features like “notify me every time my friend Fred checks in somewhere”.I’ve long wanted the ability to say where you instead intend to be *in the future*, obvs to the extent you want to announce that. That’s useful to friends to make decisions as to what conferences, concerts, games, and parties to plan for attending too, and is in the spirit of the original Dodgeball (4sq predecessor). Plancast offered that and was awesomely useful, Lanyrd too although less so.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. The make a plan feature is the big new thing in Swarm

      1. kenberger

        Looking fwd to them beefing up the Plans section. Great start. Lots of key functionality easily added. top of my head: include location from 4sq places DB, basics such as eventbrite and meetup have, more robust calendar (show me stuff my friends are doing in London in July, although some of that might show up in the main 4sq app).

      2. William Mougayar

        Interesting they call it “What’s happening later”. I wonder if it pops that entry when the later becomes the now.

  12. Salt Shaker

    I once worked on a cheesy HBO movie about a penal colony where the convicts wore an explosive collar around their necks. The collar tracked everyone’s movement. If any one convict tried to escape the neck collar for everyone in the entire colony would explode.I don’t get Foursquare…its need or its interest.

    1. fredwilson

      I think you will get the new Foursquare. Its like Yelp but smarter and betterMany people don’t get checking in. Some do. Swarm us for those that do

      1. markslater

        it can’t be smarter! they turned down our booking API! Cant understand why they wouldnt want booking capabilities to their business listings – it was free money.

      2. LE

        Honestly if Foursquare is changing what they are they probably do need a new brand name.To much identity tied in the old name. Time to rebrand.(Re-read that again..then re-read Salt Shaker’s last sentence.)

  13. vruz

    Self-unbundling, instead of waiting for somebody else to disrupt you.

  14. Ernest Oppetit

    are checkins removed from the 4sq app? I still see them

    1. fredwilson

      That is next. Probably next month but not sure on exact timing

      1. William Mougayar

        It says Summer in the App.

      2. Cam MacRae

        Interesting move. I’ll probably just delete the 4sq app.

  15. Richard

    We are not swiss army knife types. Americans have always loved Single Purpose Devices (cameras, music players etc), software has made these are all but forgotten. Single Purpose Apps are the modern equivalents.

    1. jason wright

      someone should educate Starbucks.

      1. Richard

        Yep. I hit one and only one two buttons on the starbucks app, “Pay” and ‘Reload’. That said the app performs flawlessly

  16. Nate Kidwell

    I like this a lot, and from a technical perspective this is also the way to go. Smaller apps also means a faster test suite(1), which means faster development(2), which means faster improvement(3) of code base.Not to mention developer teams can be more cleanly isolated and only waste time focusing on their specific domain (so they know more about their code’s “locality of reference”, making them smarter). To a degree foursquare was/is a smooth fit for this – I believe even their html website was more an api-consumer, then a website proper. So they already embraced the concept of splitting things up.1- They are faster because there need to be less of them and because they touch a smaller system (i.e. have less code to run for each test case)2- If you have a quicker test, the time to verify a feature is implemented (i.e. perform double-entry bookkeeping) is reduced.3- Less code mean less bugs therefore more time saved to be spent on improvement/refactoring (making code amenable to future change), rather then fixing errors. Plus a smaller code base means that when a vital change is made, there is less of a shotgun spray throughout the system (once again saving time).

  17. Emily Merkle

    At the risk of sounding like a rube…These tools are to say ” hey – I am here – oh look Andy’s there”So what?Do you leave where you are and take the F train to meet Andy?Why didn’t Andy text you if he wants to hook up?Why do you care if Daphne is at The Beacon when you don’t have a ticket to the concert?Seems like networks feigning connectionPointless communication

    1. fredwilson

      Easy to do one on one with texting. But hard to do with hundreds of people. I am connected to something like 1000 people on Swarm

      1. Emily Merkle

        I imagine that Swarm might rock for arranging flash mobsdo you really care where 1000 people are?Or even who?

    2. Aaron Klein

      The plans feature could be very powerful. It’s about finding a more efficient way of connecting with friends instead of randomly texting them or sending out a broad Facebook message.Of course, there are times I want to hang with that particular friend. Then you’d text them of course.

      1. Emily Merkle

        No doubt. If the way you socialize is to pop into a sushi joint to see Paul and share a quick sashimi platter as a surprise ans welcome random encounter…

        1. Emily Merkle

          I apologize. i just see the entire model from a user standpoint as just an unwitting vehicle for monetization.

        2. Aaron Klein

          Two real life use cases.1: My wife and I are going to a movie that just came out and “the more the merrier.” We make a plan on swarm and our friends show up to hang out. 2: I’m on the road and walk into a restaurant. My phone beeps and I notice that one of our key partners is in the same restaurant. I walk over to say hi and make a deeper connection, then go on with my own dinner.Both of those have happened in real life. Swarm might just make them easier and more common. We’ll see.

          1. Emily Merkle

            I can understand that to some degree. Perhaps my view is clouded by my modus operadi of interaction, socialization, etc. Hope I am an outlier for the investor.

          2. Emily Merkle

            Deeper connection with a coworker as your penne arrabiata gets cold?

      2. Emily Merkle

        “Randomly texting”? Is that like Chat Roulette?

    3. Matt Zagaja

      My most common use case is I’m visiting a city and i don’t recall which of my friends live there or I’m too busy to try and canvass who wants to meet up so after I check-in people will text to ask about meeting up. Lets them self-filter.

      1. Emily Merkle

        Must be great friends if you can’t remember what city they live in.

        1. Matt Zagaja

          It’s actually the reverse issue: it’s quite easy to remember John lives in New York City, it’s not easy to remember that among say my law school classmates Jack, Jill, Robert, Gwen, etc. live there. It’s not limited to cities though, one time I wasn’t able to pull a complete list from memory of everyone that works in my office. For better or worse it’s not easy to maintain friendships with people far away (though I do manage to do it with some) but I always enjoy meeting up with people I know even if we do not talk often. Not every friend gets to be a best friend but I’m ok with that.

  18. andrewjude

    I really really really tried to get into Foursquare never quite understood it. But this new app and the process of unbundling is a bold move by the business. Look forward to seeing how it plays out.

  19. Matt Quirion

    This un-bundling of apps has me thinking we’ll snap back to “mobile web apps first” thinking sooner than I expected. There are still things that you can’t do via the web, but that list shrinks constantly. And now if the service providers are thinking of themselves as more _service_ providers and less _app_ makers, the web becomes the better platform. Again. And of course we’ll cycle back to app-first thinking later.But we’ll always cycle back to the web. https://xkcd.com/1367/

  20. Ray

    This uncoupling is so Gwyneth and Chris.

  21. markslater

    i am not a checkin person. so i wont see that much value out of this. Looks great though!

  22. Demian Brener

    Another example of Twitter’s unbundling is Jelly, trying to capture the questions asked to the lazy web. Can you think of other uses for Twitter that could be addressed vertically?

    1. Semil Shah

      Would agree with this (and Facebook too), but seems hard to get users to siphon off FB/Twitter when engagement is higher there.

      1. awaldstein

        The thing that Facebook and Twiiter have most spun off is commerce, mostly marketplaces.Neither platform is commerce or transaction friendly.

  23. ErikSchwartz

    “App Constellations” also give the developer more shelf space and discoverability in the app store. Also cross promotional opportunities.

    1. LE

      Foot in the door also.The developer gets to say “here are some other things we do as well” once they have sold a single app to someone.This is really the classic example of having a “foot in the door”. [1] Once you start to do business with someone it’s much easier to get them to pay attention to your next product or service message. There is an existing relationship. You are not an unknown.[1] Quite common to bid the first job or order at a loss to get that foot in the door which pays off in future full price business.

  24. Brandon G. Donnelly

    I’m loving Swarm. I just wish I had more friends on it. I’m sitting around 80, globally, and it could be more active, locally.Overall, I really want Foursquare to succeed. I keep feeling like the fundamentals and data are there for it to be so much more powerful than Yelp.

    1. Semil Shah

      This was the problem with Path, etc…great, but how to get the right people on it? What’s the incentive? Seems like a big hurdle.

      1. Brandon G. Donnelly

        I was also a big fan of Path until my entire network left, and it truly became my own personal diary.In the case of Swarm, there’s the hurdle of people thinking that automatic location sharing is just creepy. But if there’s enough utility, people will get over it.So far, I’m finding the “nearby plans” feature to be really interesting. People are starting to use.

        1. Semil Shah

          From an app level, I’m surprised they elected for persistent location vs using Apple’s significant location change API. Too much battery to make it worth it for me.

  25. Twain Twain

    App Constellations = diversified product range? App Constellations = focusing intention clusters? Got it.Swarm maybe will be like Twitter whereby crowds, once notified by where someone is, can gather like “flocks of birds” or “swarms. Got it.4SQ itself will be more like Yelp, Zagat with reviews. Got it.Will there then be another app for business listings and maybe even deliveries and location-based payments tracking (eg, http://m.youtube.com/watch?…

  26. David Bressler

    Hi Fred. I want to say great minds think alike… but it’s more likely something in our NY water (or coffee).I’ve been noticing this too (and in fact posted something last night). In particular:It’s not only Foursquare (I’ve always been impressed by their mobile dev skills) and Facebook. NY Times and Google have also recently done similar. NY Times has apps dedicated to food and opinion, while Google’s broken out their Office Apps into separate apps.My article was about Banking apps. Why do banks talk about “their app” as if there would only be one? (Because they don’t have insight into mobile, and they have one website, so they have one app.)What could (should?) banks do? How come bank apps are almost never on lists of top 10 personal finance apps? Will it matter?Anyways, thanks for your article, it helps people understand what I believe is an important shift that mobile brings to the way we use technology.http://davidbressler.com/20

    1. LE

      How come bank apps are almost never on lists of top 10 personal finance apps?Because banks are the types of institutions that are bred out of regulations, multiple requirements, stakeholders and more importantly people with their actual asses on the line (they could lose their job) that extends way beyond the fear that exists in some kid in his dorm room creating the next “little shitty photo sharing app”. It’s easy to throw shit at the fan if there is little or no downside.In the real world of business there are no do overs. Shit that real companies do has to pass through multiple layers (including legal) and that’s a good thing since they have something to lose.

      1. David Bressler

        Well said. Maybe it’s more difficult to innovate, but not impossible.

    2. Richard

      Yep, if your app is starting at square one, you are doomed. People are markovian. Hotel Tonight, Cheapest Hotel Tonight. Cheapest 4 Star Hotel Tonight. If you are a budget guy today, you are more than likely a budget guy tomorrow. If you are a midrange guy today, you are more than likely a midrange guy tomorrow.

  27. Tom Critchlow

    Very true – and if we look to Asia we see this trend accelerated. I think Line (“that messaging app”) has on the order of 40 separate apps in the app store for android.

  28. Michael Brill

    This trend just seems to solidify the position that apps as we know them are the wrong way to encapsulate features. Today it may make sense to unbundle chicken sink apps into individual apps, but I can’t imagine anyone is too excited to be bouncing around between different apps with extremely limited integration and different UIs/UXs. To the extent you believe in pervasive/contextual computing, then all these zillions of silos have to go.

    1. LE

      “chicken sink apps”You mean “kitchen sink apps” eh?

      1. Semil Shah

        oh chicken shit apps 😉 ?

      2. Michael Brill

        I can’t believe that snuck into my vernacular. I accidentally said that (probably after quite a few drinks) a long time ago and now every time I see kitchen sink, I automatically convert it to my head and grin. Completely inadvertent!

  29. JaredMermey

    App Constellations will affect distribution. I’d like to be able to download a full bundle from the App Store and have it populate my home screen as a neatly organized folder of apps much like the Google Apps come pre-populated on Androids.

    1. Semil Shah

      Great idea – instead of downloading one app, you get a suite. Love this. I may write about it.



      2. JaredMermey

        Love to see the link when you do 🙂

  30. Cynthia Schames

    This is a fascinating trend to me in some ways. In other ways, it feels like devs are trying too hard and inhaling their own supply to the detriment of users. While I love the checkin aspect of 4Sq, I don’t actually WANT a separate app for that. In fact, I don’t want a ton of apps that each do one thing beautifully. I’d really love to not have to think so hard about which app to use to do what I want to do right then. I would like to just be able to seamlessly command my OS or device and let the software do the work of choosing the right app for that. Sorta “Her” but without the phone sex.

    1. Semil Shah

      I’d agree with you. Maybe a compromise against pulling it out of the original app outright?

      1. Cynthia Schames

        @semilshah:disqus Yeah in the case of 4Sq I just simply don’t understand the rationale of splitting it. Maybe I’m dumb 😉 but I have been a pretty heavy 4Sq user for a long time and I do not feel this is a step forward.

        1. Semil Shah

          My view on it is that only a smaller group of 4sq users were checking in, but they were checking in a lot. Over time, they’d be moving the check-in feature further away from the interface, So, if they wanted to just remove it from the app, a core bunch of users would be mad. No good. So, why not take those users, go back to the original 4sq vision, rebuild it, and see if it catches fire? IMO not a bad experiment.

    2. Michael Brill

      Wasn’t that the promise of Siri? “Hey Siri [or Google Now or …] get me to 65th and 1st in 25 minutes.” Whether it’s a yellow cab, Uber, a bicycle, subway or whatever, let the machine figure it out. But that requires a different approach to apps from what we currently have.

      1. Cynthia Schames

        That was quite possibly the promise of Siri, but Siri sucks ass so…I agree that it requires a different approach to apps. That is what I want to see.

        1. Frederick Tubiermont

          Once we enter a true post-appstores era, all of those discussions will be solved in a snap 😉 https://medium.com/startup-

          1. Michael Brill

            The mobile web has no impact on this at all. Actually, mobile web is heading in the *wrong* direction by simply trying to be better at native apps than native apps. Even as performance improves, the advancements at the OS-level will all be around native and mobile web will continually be playing catchup in a game it can’t win.The real opportunity is based on *back end* integration. APIs, higher-level services, and application frameworks that enable new capabilities to be easily introduced to users without having to go create entire new companies and apps.For all of Siri’s suckiness, imagine if it worked… and you not only had the ability to add services on the back end, but could expose these cross-service capabilities in novel ways on the front end. Let native spend its time making users bounce between constellations of apps while still unable to connect or apply any intelligence to multiple services. There’s no glory in that.

          2. Frederick Tubiermont

            I think we’re speaking about exactly the same thing: web technologies executed via an invisible browser, seamlessly embedded in the OS of any device, are the way to go. It has nothing to do with “the mobile web as we know it” but, as much as appstores are a transitional form of distribution, properly crafted mobile WEB apps are paving the way to a seamless web-based user experience.

          3. Michael Brill

            We might be. Maybe for me it’s more an issue of silo vs. non-silo. I don’t really see anything in mobile web that makes it less of a silo than native. You can make improvements in discovery and save me 20 seconds of downloading an app, but what I get at the end really isn’t that different from what I have now.

          4. Frederick Tubiermont

            Let’s say that it’s a totally different view on the way you organize the ecosystem, it’s closer to what we know on desktop PCs, where you don’t need to go through “curated” appstores to access applications, you simply access them via your browser. It’s faster, easier, doesn’t require to download countless updates and much more cross-platform that the hyper siloed native approach. But, it’s true, you need to dedicate efforts to craft something that delivers a great UX while offering a true cross-platform compatibility without maintaining X versions / branches of the app. But, from my own experience, I can tell you that once you’ve achieved this, it’s worth the efforts 😉 for a lot of reasons. I love playing against the status quo, when it makes a difference.

  31. LE

    Putting a ton of functionality into a single app is not the right way to do it on mobile. Having a constellation of mobile apps that all work tightly with each other seems to be the better way. And the leading mobile app companies are all headed in that direction now. Pay attention to this trend.A good question is why is this a trend now. When what is being done is obvious in terms of human behavior and is common sense. You shouldn’t need to see what others are doing as proof of concept if it just makes sense.This is also the case for the web in similar situations. An umbrella group of products under one brand might not be the best way to stand out. An umbrella product with a zillion features might not make sense (what do they call that? “feature creep”?) Or is it clusterfuck?People have short attention spans and “branding pass along” and word of mouth means that it’s easier to give something a name and get attention than to have it be a feature in something larger (even if they already know and use the “something else”).Easier to say “just use “BunBuff” than to say “Sendgrid has a great feature I am using that does polishes buns”. Or even “Sendgrid has a service called “BunBuff”. Just “I’m using BunBuff”.The only difficult part is deciding when to implement this and when not to. But that’s business no hard and fast rules it’s analog.Along the lines of this theory Falicon will put just the right amount of features into http://www.fubnub.com and then move on and create another product (which he can call Bunbuff.com ).(Btw Kevin the help section of fubnub.com isn’t showing up…)

  32. LE

    Disqus – picture uploads aren’t working.

  33. Joah Spearman

    I think Foursquare needs to focus less on quantity (of things like checkins) and more on quality (for things like recommendations), so this is a good move. Ultimately, they are only going to compete with Yelp and the like if they provide a quality answer to a question like “where should I eat ramen” rather than a pin-point of where various ramen places are and who’s been to them.

    1. Semil Shah

      Do you think they should’ve released Swarm for the check-in fans and charged, so as to make a statement?

      1. Joah Spearman

        I don’t think charging people does anything helpful to Foursquare’s business at this point. Unbundling for them to me is less about trying to create a revenue stream (which they’ve spent the last year or two doing) and more about trying to recapture user buzz and growth that has tailed off for them lately. Remember when people thought Foursquare was worth $1bn? This is a move to push it back in that direction after a couple years of (mostly) stagnation. IMHO

  34. BillMcNeely

    Two notes.First,Thanks for having the reminder about the Net Neutrality issue on the banner as you come to the site. i participated and called my Senator John Cornyn to let him know I wished to have an open internet.My second how do you see this split affecting establishments who used Foursquare to find customers for their services?

  35. jason wright

    fed up friday…?

    1. Matt A. Myers

      This could make a good meme photo. Much like the fail whale one..

      1. jason wright

        was it the Tom Wheeler interview?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I don’t know actually.

          1. Techman

            Nice meme.

  36. Pete Griffiths

    Integrated stovepipes.Reminds me of Office.

  37. MrDarcy

    FourSquare is probably making the right move for them (the way I read the post is that they’ve identified two related, but different, user bases… and FourSquare is currently interested in serving both). But I’m not sure I see the app constellation model forming in the same way. Specifically, some seem to be constellations made up of stars strong enough to stand alone (i.e. serve a a market large enough to support it, while also benefitting from cross-connections with other similarly-minded apps), however other constellations seem to be mostly stars that serve as cheese crumbs drawing people to the “real app.” To me the prime difference is the relationship with the user… one seeks to grow the relationship with the user by providing added value, the other is more akin to growing the relationship with the user via personalized marketing. To be clear, both are valid approaches, they’re just not the same… and that’s why I’m not sure the constellation model works as a paradigm to understand the app market evolution.One other thought… from a user experience perspective this evolutionary step feels a bit like a shift towards a multiple document interface (MDI) wherein the user has to remember/show/switch-to the right app/window to perform the desired function (which, over multiple iterations, trends away from simplicity and toward expert users applying tacit knowledge). Overall, I’m less confident that this is a general app market trend that users will love… as a user I tend to prefer a contextual approach in a single app/window (which is the direction most software went after trying MDI in the 1990’s).

  38. arustgi

    I am not quite sure Foursquare’s issue was its app, though the new app-split isn’t a bad idea, given that others have executed that same concept successfully.Foursquare issue has always been and continues to be relevancy. For the mass market, it never addressed something that was of ‘primary concern’ to a broad group of people, in a manner that twitter became.A couple of weeks ago, you posted a link to the head of UX at twitter who described how they evolved how users relate to twitter. It was only when people started thinking of twitter as a medium to stay in touch with topics you care about that people flocked to it. A broad base of people were able to relate to that message, because it a primitive human need.Foursquare needs something like that, something that connects to people at a primitive level.

  39. Techman

    Where is a Google+ share button in the share “slide out” in the comments.



  41. ShanaC

    I’m using swarm now, and I can’t figure out how to check in correctly to the place I want to check into. That’s troubling

  42. Frederick Tubiermont

    Hi Chris, it will even be easier to develop constellations of apps in a non-native / web “post-appstores” environment. The open web is the key to remove silos and let web services talk to each other in a seamless way, across platforms & across devices. Here is my take on the matter: https://medium.com/startup-