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Annals of Quality II

There is, or was, a smart phone app call FourSquare.  It is, or was, used to "check-in" in to various places.  Say you went to a particular restaurant.  You could "check-in" there and post, from the FourSquare app, the check-in on twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare.  As you checked-in, FourSquare would provide tips from others that others would post.  The tips would extoll what others found special about the place you found your self at.  You were encouraged by the app to leave your own tips.

FourSquare tracked your check-ins to various venues and types of venues.  As you achieved multiple check-ins, you would achieve badges for the category of venue.  There were badges for Coffee Houses, Hotels, Airports, Bookstores, Italian Restaurant, and almost any class of business or civic place imaginable.  If you checked into a particular place more than anyone else, say Joe's Diner, FourSquare would honor you with the title of Mayor.  People were proud to become the mayor of a place.  If someone else took over the mayorship, the ex-mayor would visit more often to get the mayorship

Facebook provides the check-in capability but it is, or was, the badges and mayorships differentiated FourSquare from Facebook and any other app that provides a similar service.  Users of FourSquare liked these features.  It made the app more fun to use.  It was cool to collect badges and super-cool to be the Mayor of any particular place.  If you lost your Mayorship, FourSquare would let you know... and challenge you to get it back.

As might be guessed from the tone of this posting, FourSquare changed their app.  They split off the check-in feature into a new app called Swarm.  The look and feel of the new app is not the same and maybe that would have been OK.  They changed the colors and navigation a bit.  This might have been OK with users, nothing more than a nuisance, except that for the other change they made.  FourSquare took away the badges and the mayorships.  Taking away the badges and mayorships did not sit well with the users who began protesting vigorously on twitter.

What happened to the original FourSquare app?  Good question.  The company is focusing the original FourSquare app, now, on local business and entertainment search.  This confused the user base as to why they didn’t leave the old app alone and either add functionality to it or create a new app for the new functionality.  Furthermore, the new functionality of the old FourSquare app is a lot like the current and quite popular Yelp. 

There are no steadfast rules for new product development but there is common sense.  Common sense might suggest that when expanding the functionality of an app or in splitting an app into two, the current loyal user base might need to be a concern.  There is nothing wrong with adding functionality and then splitting a known entity into two.  It may have made more sense to to keep the original FourSquare app intact with check-ins, badges, and mayorships and bring the new functionality to the new app.  FourSquare did it exactly opposite to this.  They moved the core functionality of the existing app to a new app and are revamping the functionality of the old.  They are succeeded in irritating their user base.

They may not have been making money on their old product and product profile.  It was unclear how they made any money with their old app.  Certainly, FourSquare has to worry about sales and profits and thus has every right to change their product in ways that increase both.  Yet, in the world of things online, having a large number of faithful and frequent users is a good thing all that is required is to figure out some way to boost advertising to these users.  Changing things in a ways that ticks them off and makes them stop using any of your apps is not a recommended strategy.  Amid all the WTF’s and other diatribes was this delightful video.

FourSquare CEO Apologizes for Swarm App

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