Foursquare’s Swarm and the Rise of the Invisible App


When Foursquare first launched in 2009, it was the foremost application for location-based social networking. However, in recent years, its growth has been stagnant.  In attempts to revamp their product, the company is repositioning their main app later this summer as a review platform for local businesses (similar to Yelp!), and has moved the social aspects to their new app that launched today, Swarm.  A feature of Swarm is the ability to, one time only, activate passive tracking which allows the user to automatically share their neighborhood with friends close by. There’s also a messaging component to easily allow users to make plans to meet. These eliminate the time spent finding your location, manually inputting a location if needed, checking in and then separately texting your connections to make plans.

What I found interesting about this particular article is the idea that platforms are making a shift to the “invisible app” and how well Swarm plays into this idea. Invisible apps are those that users don’t absent-mindedly scroll through (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) but instead are for a specific purpose. They aim to be more useful and notify you based on contextual signals, location, history of use, etc.  With Swarm, you never even have to open the app to get use out of it.  In urban environments, where people are always on the go and looking for efficiency above all else, I think this application, and similar ones, will prove to be useful.  As the author notes though, it’ll be interesting to see if they’ll be able to penetrate rural areas.  Do you think Swarm will be useful and does the simplicity of the app make it more desirable? In general, do you tend to use apps that are geared toward browsing or for specific use?

One of the other advantages to a product like Swarm is that it stemmed from Foursquare, which, even with its faults, proves to be the most accurate location-based service.  A major component of their monetization plan is other platform’s reliance on their application formatting interface (AFI). Microsoft alone invested $15 million earlier this year and made a deal to license Foursquare’s location data into some of their products.  Though Facebook and other location applications struggle with the accuracy that Foursquare has, the company has lost major business from buyouts to their competitors, like in the case of Instagram.  With Swarm and its active tracking, it will presumably enhance the accuracy of location.  Could this lead to more AFI users?  Is the location interface enough to finally make the company profitable or are there other ways they can utilize Swarm to increase revenue?



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