Emerging Technology

BEST OF THE WEB: How Foursquare fell from the top, and is clawing its way back

Patrick Stafford /

Foursquare has been in trouble. Despite the social network making a solid impact on the market in the late 2000s thanks to its novel use of “check-ins”, its popularity has waned.

The larger networks like Facebook have adopted Foursquare’s technology and used it as its own. Now, it seems there’s nowhere to go.

Which is exactly where Foursquare founder and chief executive Dennis Crowley finds himself. He’s faced increasing criticism over the past few months, and the calls are increasing for Foursquare to prove itself.

The company was able to win $41 million in debt financing earlier this year and has started a new search and discovery engine. And despite the criticism, Crowley recently told Fast Company with partners such as Uber and Path, the company is in a good place.

“We’re now at this point where it’s really hard for us to go away,” Crowley says. “People will say, ‘Oh, you’re not killing it like Google.’ Well, Google’s got 50,000 people. ‘You guys aren’t as profitable as Facebook.’

“Yeah, well, they have 4,900 people and have been around for 10 years. We’re [four-and-a-half] years old with 160 people: Give us a chance to grow into what we are.”

Crowley has been so closely identified with Foursquare that the two are practically synonymous. As the piece describes, in the company’s early days Crowley was featured on several magazine covers after winning $50 million in funding, and winning 15 million users back in 2011.

But it hasn’t all gone to plan. The perception of the site as a “game” hasn’t helped, and nor has a split with the company’s co-founder.

Digging out of the pessimistic muck isn’t impossible, but Crowley’s mistakes have made his job more difficult. Foursquare is a more evolved Dodgeball, offering features such as badges and rewards to incentivize engagement–check in to four different bars in one night, say, to earn the “Crunked” badge.

But the app got stuck with the perception that it’s nothing more than a juvenile game. “We didn’t want to be known as the badge company–that could have gone horribly wrong,” Crowley says, although that’s arguably what happened.

As Foursquare tries to reinvent itself with a new app – which automatically detects your location and provides you with recommendations based on your social network – its task remains harder than never.

And so every next step is important; the service must evolve so that Crowley can as well.

This is an excellent write-up for a tech darling that lost its way, and may just claw itself back into the game. A must read.

Apple will fail without Steve Jobs: Ellison

Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and a friend of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, took part in an interview this week in which he gave a grim assessment of Apple’s future.

The company, he said, will end up declining without Jobs at the helm.

“We conducted the experiment,” he said, presumably referring to the period in the 80s and 90s when Jobs was pushed out of the company and Apple’s business suffered. “I mean, it’s been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. We saw Apple without Steve Jobs. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. Now we’re going to see Apple without Steve Jobs.”
You can see the entire interview over at Mashable. While this criticism isn’t new, it’s the first time it’s come from Ellison’s mouth – which perhaps gives it just a little bit more weight.

What’s coming in the next iPhone?

Apple may be just weeks away from debuting the latest iPhone – and as usual, the analysts are running wild.

A fingerprint sensor, a cheaper construction and some hardware improvements are just a few of the things expected this year. The New York Times has issued a round-up of some of the most popular predictions – if you’re waiting for the next gadget with bated breath, this should help carry you over until September 10.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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