Location is not enough

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I deleted Foursquare from my iPhone last night. This was the second time I deleted it, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be re-installing it.

I think location is a killer feature, especially for mobile devices. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about potential applications for location-aware mobile devices, including a great conversation with Omar Abdelwahed of Ubisoft about possible mobile games.

But location alone is not enough to make an application useful. Foursquare is trying, especially with the new “hot potato event” feature they added for South by Southwest. Essentially, Foursquare does two things:

1. It tells me where my friends are, if they remember to use the application. This is sort of useful and possibly interesting. Here at SxSW, I saw Oren Michels (@orenmichels on Twitter, CEO of Mashery) check in at a taco place, and I inferred that he’d be bringing breakfast tacos to the Circus Mashimus lounge.

2. It lets me get a list of people who have checked in a a given location using Foursquare. I can’t tell anything other than that they have been at that location – I have no idea if you’re interesting or not, unlike Twitter, which at least gives me some insight into who you are by letting me look at your tweetstream.

Foursquare does not help me grow my set of friends, because it doesn’t give me any more information than “this person is in (or was in) this place.” It does have gamelike mechanisms for encouraging usage of the app — badges and mayorships — but that’s ultimately self-referential. I’d like Foursquare to be cool and useful, but unless and until it offers something more than simply location awareness, it’s not making it back on to my phone.

Fixed an omitted word in the 3rd paragraph that changed its meaning.

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