Joe Riley may no longer have a mayoral stranglehold in Charleston, as Foursquare, the location-based social game, has expanded to the entire world after a limited beta in certain cities.
Location-based social networking isn’t a terribly new concept anymore, but it hasn’t really caught on in the mainstream. I’ve been using Brightkite for location-based networking since 2008 or so, and it’s proven to be a very useful tool. However, I’ve heard on more than one occasion that it’s a “stalker tool” — and, yes, if used without discretion, it could have some unintended consequences — but with careful usage, it can be a very powerful tool. However, Foursquare’s competitive aspect makes the idea of giving away location on the Internet a little bit more palatable to the general public. It also helps that Foursquare focuses on social venues without putting on undue pressure to check in at work, at home, and the like. Its business partnerships add a lot of value for users, businesses, and Foursquare itself. The to-do list feature, which lets you assign things to do at specific venues and check them off for points, is a cool way to find things to do at a new place.
As a utility, though, I think Foursquare falls a little short. For example, it doesn’t let you attach pictures to a place, which is something that Brightkite does extremely well. It also doesn’t make much sense to use Foursquare in a newsgathering situation (which, admittedly, most people won’t do). A case in point: I’m working on a project right now to create a mobile storm lab to augment my weather data-gathering and reporting efforts. I plan on using a special Charleston Weather Brightkite account to track and broadcast my movements. And despite its lack of popularity compared to Foursquare, Brightkite wins here hands down for a few reasons:
- The ability to check in at a relative location, such as an intersection, rather than a solid venue;
- Brightkite’s aforementioned ability to associate and geotag photos with a location, and then post those photos to Flickr and Twitter;
- The game feature seems extraneous for the intended use — after all, if my mobile storm lab should check in at a place enough to become mayor of it, the place sounds just a tad uninsurable, doesn’t it?
Time will tell to see if Foursquare adds these features, but Brightkite’s focus seems to be on pushing the location-based envelope, as its foray into augmented reality advertising shows. That’s why Brightkite will continue to be the location-based social network of choice for this geek.
I’ve heard a lot about how Foursquare going global means Brightkite’s death knell, but I don’t agree at all. Brightkite’s purpose is different than Foursquare’s and I don’t see why they can’t coexist. I look forward to using both for different things — Foursquare for the rare occasion I try to be a socialite, and Brightkite for other applications that require location but not necessarily the competitive aspect. (I’d like Gowalla, too, but they’re iPhone and Android only — not even their mobile site works on a BlackBerry, and there doesn’t seem to be any alternative method to operate the service.)