You may remember Dodgeball, a website created by Dennis Crowley a few years ago. When I gave Dodgeball a try way back when, in NYC, I only had about two friends on the system, including Dennis who I met through the system, and used it on a Blackberry which was the best web browser at the time. I could see the potential in Dodgeball, and had seen a dozen similar thesis projects years before when teaching at the universities, but I didn’t like Dodgeball and assumed that it was too early.
Dodgeball was eventually bought by Google but apparently Google did not go in the direction Dennis wanted to go. Soon thereafter, Dennis left and more recently, Google killed it.
Dennis is likely sitting at a computer right now, pretty hyped up and working hard to make a lot of improvements to Foursquare, the sequel to Dodgeball. I think this may be true because people at SXSW and elsewhere this weekend are picking up on the system like free hotcakes.
I think now, its exactly the right time for the sequel. The world is now ready and prepared for location based social interactions.
Now that we are in the post iphone phase, as well as the “I understand Twitter and accept Facebook now” phase, enough people are out there, prepared and ready to integrate location. In particular for Foursquare, since our GPS’s work, we dont need to say where we are, we can just confirm. And because we can get 3g speeds (sometimes) with mobile, we can deal with the brief interruption of pinging short messages while moving around. And especially, we are feeling more safe with knowing when its okay to be transparent about what we are doing and where we are.
Here is how Forsquare works, I think.
You sign up and create a basic profile just like you would on Twitter. You can then follow people and they can follow you. There are a lot of people already using this system, its a bit surpassing how fast everyone has jumped on.
You can check in. This is basically announcing where you are. Last night when I was at Milto’s one of my favorite pizza places in Austin, I opened up the Forsquare app on my iPhone and clicked “check in” and the app gave me a list of nearby establishments, including Miltos which was where I was at, so I just selected it. This sent out a tweet, er, an announcement to everyone in my network that I was there. A lot like going to Twitter and saying, “Hey everyone, Im at Miltos at Guadalupe and 29th street”. In fact, I had selected to have my Foursquare messages get sent through to Twitter so it actually wound up on Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, friendfeed and my blog. I know, this is truly embarrassing. But whatever. Obviously the point of adding Foursquare into the mix is to tweet locations and explore some fun with some people I know, and maybe dont know yet.
There are also some games going on here. Every check in earns points. Points leads to badges. This is meant to incentivize activity. The system also seems to provoke you into styling your messages in a certain way related to contributing information about certain places. For instance, I could instruct anyone who goes to Miltos to order the Greek Village Salad, hold the anchovies, but say “anchor-o-veyes” when ordering.
SXSW is a fun place to be and each year there are a handful of companies that kinda “come out of sxsw”, for being the most interesting at the time. Rocketboom in a way arrived at SXSW for representing an example of how video could work on the internet at a time when that seemed amazing. Twitter also arrived at SXSW. Facebook pretty much took the stage last year for ‘social media’ (shoot me for saying that).
There are many other location based services that are well thought out and already up and running, many of which came out the day the iPhone app store came out. Loopt comes to mind. But this weekend may be the perfect storm of people at the perfect time to begin the first adopter duty, should this be the year for location based service. If its not THE thing, it may be one of them.
If you check out Foursquare, you can find me here.