Foursquare has grown from a network of 300,000 users supported by four employees in February 2010 to 6.5 million users supported by 50 employees today, said CEO Dennis Crowley during a session at Social Media Week.
That’s tremendous growth, even if most people have never tried checking in to a location-based social network and many Americans say they have never heard of the network.
What’s next for the network? Before a standing-room-only crowd, FastCompany‘s Austin Carr interviewed Crowley about the networks’ future. Here are the highlights of what Crowley had to say:
- The company is preparing a massive presentation for South by SouthWest in March, in which the network will announce about 20 updates.
- Crowley says he wishes more brands looked to integrate themselves into location-based networks in ways that provided value to users, instead of just promoting the brand. He cites the History Channel using the network to highlight historical places as one example of a brand using the network in a way that enhances both the brand image and the user experience. He wondered aloud if diaper brands could provide tips for parents at playgrounds. He called this practice “leaving crumbs” for users.
- The company is working on a feature that will allow users to check in at events in a more meaningful way, Crowley says.
- When asked by an audience member if the network will even incorporate check-ins to physical objects through QR codes, Crowley said he’s skeptical of the technology. He added that the codes are too cumbersome and labor-intensive, since they require users to scan an image. He said he’s more interested in NFC/RFID technologies, since they would allow physical check-ins to be accomplished with a quick tap of one’s mobile device, an act he described as being more like magic than science.
- Some of the network’s best features come from users developing applications with the network’s API, he said. Crowley pointed to the Don’t Eat At app, which warns users when they check into a restaurant with a abysmal health inspection score. “We don’t want to teach people how to use the product. We want them to teach us,” he added.
- Crowley claims that Foursquare’s advantage over some of its more powerful rivals, such as Facebook Places, is that it aims to empower new discoveries and new experiences that take place offline. The network’s utility isn’t in checking in and scoring badges, he says, but in the kinds of new social interactions and new discoveries that the technology can power.
- When asked about what his “fantasy use case” for the network is, Crowley mused that someday he’d like to see his network be powerful enough to generate recommendations based on previous check-ins, so that users could step off a plane in an unfamiliar city and be directed to venues that suit their established user profile.
Are you using Foursquare? What kinds of features would you like to see the network introduce?
Image credit: Creativeye99, via iStockphoto