It’s a lonely world out there, and Swarm is making it obvious.
Earlier today, Foursquare launched Swarm, a standalone check-in app. Swarm heralds the retirement of check-ins from the mainline Foursquare client, eliminates points, and restricts mayorships to being held among friends only instead of the among the entire user base.
Foursquare imagines that by doing so, they’re making the service more accessible to the general public, but I’d argue instead that instead they’re revealing just how poorly Foursquare caught on as social network.
Here’s what Swarm looks like, according to Foursquare:
Unfortunately, here’s what Swarm really looks like on my end. Bear in mind that I have 209 friends on Foursquare, 2061 on Facebook, nearly 1400 Twitter followers, and 978 followers on Google+, so I’m not exactly slacking on social media:
I suspect the same is the case with many of my Foursquare friends. I checked the friend count of the heaviest Foursquare users I know personally, and only 1 person was above 500. The next highest was 289. Everyone else was significantly below 100. Basically, unless you live in a major urban center and are Foursquare friends with everyone on your block, you’re unlikely to have many people listed close to you.
While Foursquare has always had the above problem, the legacy app did a good job of hiding it. The points system made your friends relevant regardless of where they were or how many you had, in addition to providing incentive to check in anyway. Public mayorships provided the illusion – if nothing else – of a large user base to play along with. Now there’s no point in being mayor of a venue is none of your friends go to that venue. Swarm mayorships are like climbing Olympus Mons: sure, you’re at the top of the 2nd tallest mountain in the Solar System, but no one’s around to care.
Personally, Swarm reduces the utility – and fun – of Foursquare to the extent that I’ve uninstalled the mainline app and am pretty close to removing Swarm itself. After all, if no one’s within 40 klicks of me, there are no points for competition and no way to discover or compete with new people via mayorships, what’s the point? It also doesn’t help that Foursquare share in my online influence score has dropped to 0% despite my very active use thereof: