On Thursday, Foursquare launched its latest app, called Swarm. Swarm is an effort by the startup who, until now, combined the ability to check in at random venues and discover the city around you within the same app.
By splitting the app essentially in half, Foursquare is creating two different services. The first, and most important, is an app for checking in and keeping tabs on friends' whereabouts. The second, which would lose it's power without the check-in data, will provide personalized recommendations. For now, only Swarm is available; the revamped Foursquare app to be dedicated to discovery will launch at a later time.
Swarm takes some familiar cues from the official Foursquare app of old, and brings with it some new features.
The first thing you'll notice about Swarm is how minimal it is. The entire app is broken up into four different feeds. The first feed breaks down the distance between you and friends, starting with friends who are within 500 feet. The next feed is the familiar chronological list of friend activity. Plans, which is something I'll cover more of in just a minute, is where you can broadcast what you're up to, and ask friends to join you. The last tab is where you'll find notifications of likes, comments, and friend requests.
You can change between the different feeds with a simple swipe in the either direction on the Android app, while the iOS app requires you to tap on the feed icon.
As you might have read the first time you launched the app, you can opt to have your location constantly shared with friends through a new neighborhood feature. You activate the feature by swiping from left-to-right across the bar displaying your avatar and location. When active, the bar will be orange, and grey when inactive. Foursquare will monitor when you move and update your current neighborhood, making it easy for friends to figure out how close (or far away) you are.
You can check in, just like you always have (or maybe never did) by tapping on the check in icon next to your profile photo. Swarm will automatically display the venue it thinks you're at, and let you check in with another tap. You can change the venue by tapping on the "change location" button and searching for the venue.
On the check in screen, you'll notice there are some stickers. These stickers are placed on your profile photo for the respective check-in. You start with just a few stickers, but can unlock more with check ins at various places. Think of stickers as a replacement for badges.
Mayorships have changed a bit in Swarm. Instead of competing against every Foursquare user, now you only compete against your friends. For example, you and your friends have a favorite dive bar, but prior to Swarm the worst bartender was also the mayor. Not only was it annoying he didn't know how to pour a proper Moscow Mule, his Mayorship also took away any potential bragging rights. Well, with Swarm, he will no longer be the mayor when you view the venue through the app (assuming you never accepted his friend request). Instead you and your friends will compete amongst yourselves for that honor.
Plans has the potential to be one of the biggest additions to Foursquare's core feature set in Swarm. With Plans, you can post what amounts to a status update of what you're up to, or what you'd like to do. Your friends can then see your Plan, and comment on the post. You can tag friends or venues by typing a "@" followed by the friend or venue name. Swarm will automatically fill in names you type. Not only do Plans make for an easy way to tell friends what you're up to, but it also directly ties into Foursquare venues and let's everyone know exactly where you're at (or going to be).
With these changes, Foursquare embraces the game aspect of its platform. I'd argue it's actually turning the check-in service into an even bigger game than it was before, but I'll save that dialogue for another day.
Here's an Easter egg for you to try: Start a shout on your next check-in with a random Emoji.