Once upon a time, FourSquare was a big hit, the Snapchat that every big Internet company wanted to buy in order to grow. It had millions of users and was growing like crazy in an area that everybody saw as the future of the online business: the mobile internet. But things have changed a lot since 2010.
People got tired of check-ins, which was FourSquare’s not so secret sauce. Checking-in and becoming a mayor of places was fun for a short while, but FourSquare’s founders did not find another tool to engage users for a longer time. Twitter and, more recently, Instagram were more successful at trapping users. Facebook did develop a similar feature, with no results either.
Last year FourSquare tried to react (with a 3 year delay!) by launching a new app based on recommendations. It’s true that location-based recommendations were at the heart of this network since it was developed, but people seemed not to enjoy it enough. Yelp, which is working in the same area, has not been so successful either.
So it seems there is a real problem not being solved yet on the Internet: how to choose the right restaurant or local business. We do still follow friends’ offline recommendations for doing this and no tool has been good enough to seduce such a number of users that a new business is consolidated and keeps competitors away from this area. Not even Google has been able thru Google+.
This is good news for entrepreneurs, who are supposed to be always looking for niches not yet filled by other players. If you need an idea for a startup, think about filling the gap of local recommendations and geotagging. Not Google, nor FourSquare, nor Facebook have been able to create a popular business around it. And remember that check-ins and other gaming dynamics were just a feature, not a real long-standing service.