Could The Fiefdom Of Foursquare Become The New Twittersphere?

Many people have been talking about the next Google (including myself) for the last ten years. Yet they still remain king of the hill. Similarly isn't it daunting to think that in just 3 years the microblogging darling of the investment world recently valued at one billion dollars could possibly be supplanted by a location-based game, the likes of Foursquare? Yet, there are those that have jumped on that band wagon.

In a TOP TEN review I did back in July regarding the most successful location-based mobile social networks, Foursquare was considered the "game changer." A location-based app before its time, its original incarnation was called "Dodgeball." Then Google snatched it up and halted further development. Thankfully the founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai went on to create Foursquare as a game that awards points to players based on how often one goes out, the number of places they visit and even the number of friends they meet along the way.

Robert Scoble, the preeminent blogger and technical evangelist, best known for his widely popular blog, Scobleizer is a strong believer that the fiefdom of Foursquare could become the new Twittersphere. His rationale is based on both the similarities and differences between the two networks.

First the similarities:

  • It's demographic base is the same crowd that were originally attracted to Twitter.
  • It's scaling similarly to Twitter back in 2006.
  • It's attracting funding allowing it to expand and grow as Twitter has over the last 3 years

The differences show why Foursquare might gain a greater advantage in attracting a wider audience than Twitter:

  • It's gameplay features are fun and a much more dynamic business proposition
  • Companies can engage and target their customers based on the built-in location component.

Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable agrees with Scoble and thinks that  "Foursquare’s very much in the same boat as Twitter was two years ago. The early adopters have started to drink the kool-aide... and people are starting to sit up and take notice."

Foursquare is also selecting the right partners to enhance its features and offerings. In a blog I wrote titled "8coupons & Foursquare Does A Spin on Mad Men Advertising," I highlighted their relationship with this discount app coupon service. The feature called “Deals on demand™” allows users to send coupons to their cell phones as a text message, which in turn can be redeemed at a store, restaurant or a bar by just showing your server or cashier the text display on your mobile device.

By partnering with Foursquare, the 8coupon deals will automatically notify you when you are within a 3 block radius of a relevant deal. Dependent on your location, you can be alerted of deals like 88 cent Mojitos at Candela Candela in the East Village or an 8 cent scoop of ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery in Astor Place.

text coupons from 8couponstext coupons from 8coupons

It should be noted that Foursquare has limitations that may hold back its progress in overtaking Twittersphere just yet. It is currently geographically tied to only 20 cities in the US and Amsterdam in Europe , even though it has plans of rolling-out to all major markets in short order. Also in August, the Twitter aficionado, Ashton Kutcher joined Foursquare. While some might think the publicity might be a good thing for Foursquare, there are others like CNET News that say: "there's goes the neighborhood!" 

Its growth was also held back some by the fact that up to now Foursquare has only been available as an iPhone app with MG Siegler from TechCrunch calls "a clunky mobile web interface." However that is about to change as Foursquare's developers have been challenged to build its app for other mobile platforms, and in September already launched 'Foursquare for Android.'

According to Siegler, "having another mobile application for Foursquare should certainly help with its adoption. And Android is especially key since a lot of geeky early adopters have Android phones."

As mentioned earlier, Foursquare's funding is under way with its first round coming in at $1.35 million from Union Square Venture and O'Reilly AplhaTech Ventures. While Twitter's funding continues (its most recent infusion of $55 million in September on top of earlier third round of $35 million back in February), if Foursquare continues to develop its business model and monetization program as quickly as its technological enhancements, I am sure they will be nipping at the heels of some of Twitter's investors for more lucrative deals in the months to come.

As Scoble noted in his recent blog, "Twitter better watch out. I give Foursquare 400 more days before it is on Oprah."

Naveen Selvadurai, Dennis Crowley & OprahNaveen Selvadurai, Dennis Crowley & Oprah