Let’s think back a year or two, before twitter became TWITTER; there were other microblogs out there: friendfeed, plurk, jaiku, and pownce to name a few. What had Twitter beat out all of these other services? It wasn’t as feature rich as Friendfeed when it started gaining a dominant hold on the micro-blogging population. Friendfeed had real time before Twitter, it had lists before Twitter and it has the ability, natively, to import content from elsewhere on the web. Twitter didn’t even have much more to offer than jaiku or pownce. What was it that had Twitter win?
I think Twitter won because of several things: Branding, Momentum, the network effect and to a certain extent, first mover advantage. I think the same things will have Foursquare win this race. Twitter, Facebook and once upon a time Myspace, in addition to every other social networks are only as good as they are social, that is to say, your friends hang out there too. The reason MySpace is dead is because “no one” hangs out there anymore, it became un-cool. Facebook replaced it and you joined because all of your friends went there. Foursquare is out in front, and at least for me way more of my friends are on Foursquare than any of the other big geo-location games.
Foursquare also has great branding. Much like Twitter and it’s signature light blue color and cute bird and the lovable fail whale, Foursquare has done a good job with it’s branding. Becoming a “Mayor” is more like the kind of branding that had “tweet” enter our vernacular. Foursquare was also one of the first geo-location games to become popular–notable mention to Loopt.
Foursquare has the same challenges that Twitter did:
- Much like how Twitter had Friendfeed nipping at it’s heels with passionate users and more features, Foursquare has Gowalla, MyTown, Loopt nipping at their heels with new features and passionate users.
- There was talk that Facebook would crush Twitter by offering a competing option, the same is being said about a rival offering from Facebook to crush Foursquare.
One thing that I think will have Foursquare win is integration. I think it is smart to integrate Twitter and Facebook as it removes a wall between Foursquare and the services they already use while at the same time removing competition. Facebook is going to take the opposite approach which is to offer the same thing and crush the competition…kinda like Microsoft. But the giant doesn’t always win. People don’t necessarily want Facebook to be just like other things, in fact most of the time that Facebook adds a feature or changes something people get upset. So when Facebook starts offering geo-location check-ins don’t count the little guys out yet. Foursquare is a niche and it might be just enough to get one more small piece of their life/data away from the ever increasing size of Facebook.
The game may be too early to call right now but I think Foursquare is building a brand while the others are building a service. Foursquare sounds good, it rolls off the tongue and they are obviously focused on creating a business case for this application complete with sponsored badges and analytics. I could be wrong but I think the same pattern that emerged with Twitter is there with Foursquare. I for one like playing with Foursquare and for some reason, better than the competition.
I may turn out to be wrong, but what do you think? Anything else that you want to add to the discussion? Reasons Foursquare will win? Or Lose? Add your thoughts.