Denis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, discussed developments at Foursquare during Le Web '11 and as he talked about the evolution of a service it seemed that one thing was clear. While Foursquare may not be emerging as a winning location service (a result not of its functionality but the market need, or lack thereof), what they are doing is establishing themselves as leading location API that other services are benefiting from. It's the 'behind the scenes' value of Foursquare that shows the future of location is not in a native location service itself, but an app or program with a main use, that location is then an auxiliary of
Beauty is in other services feeding back
Crowley admitted that right now there are a lot of people currently 'pulling' from the Foursquare API, but not really pushing back. He used the example of Instagram, where someone might upload a picture of a milkshake. If you like that milkshake, you might want to be reminded next time you walk past the place that sells it 'hey, remember you liked the milkshakes from here?' This can only happen, he claims, if Instagram is willing to feed back into Foursquare rather than just pulling from it. But is that ever going to really happen for Foursquare?
By his own admission, Crowley claims that check-ins are not really what they're about it anymore, showing that the service has developed. But my only issue is whether it can ever develop to the point where it is a mass-market standalone product. Services they're developing such as Explorer Recommendations, which give you increasingly smart recommendations based on the more information you share, could be put to great use within other apps, rather than keeping it within Foursquare.
Foursquare going across apps
The beauty of Foursquare within other apps made up the majority of Crowley's talk and when you look at it in this way, it allows you to see the benefit of the service, but the beauty is within the data, rather than the Foursquare service itself.
Foursquare have an opportunity here to have their 'Facebook Like' moment, where they can integrate their service across other services, retaining users and data even though it might not look like you're within the Foursquare experience itself. This is Foursquare's biggest opportunity to date, and as the data game is on, they could emerge as an unlikely winner, though the future may not be as different than they originally intended.