Stuck playing the same old game, people are starting to grow tired of using location-based services. In 2-3 years, the only focused hasn’t changed: it’s all about the venues, badges, and cheap deals. Now they’re starting to drag behind users like kid brothers and sisters that want to go everywhere with you. It was fun in the beginning. The games are getting old, but location-based services can remain fresh by doing more. One evening as I walked out of Barnes and Noble, I paused to check in on Foursquare. Immediately, I frowned. My location had just become a limitation instead of an opportunity. Foursquare check-ins can only happen near the spot you’re checking into. This is the case for a lot of LBS apps since the space has taken off. It’s my biggest pet peeve as I think location apps shouldn’t be so blatantly restrictive when it comes to the thing they’re supposed to take advantage of the most. And let’s be clear, location-based services are not dying. Foursquare has topped 4 million users and adds another 20,000 every day. Numbers don’t mean everything, as Foursquare Biz Dev, Tristan Walker aptly quotes in his post on the slow growth of LBS. However, rewards and discounts are dead conversations that LBS continue to have with their users. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir. Or at leas that I’m being mistaken for a choir full of songs I don’t want to sing. Who else looks at your badges? I don’t know. How many friends do you share badges with? I don’t know. How much have you saved by taking advantage of “deals”? I don’t know! All avenues that are unexplored by most, as Foursquare has tried to spice things up with a trophy case.
The Context That’s Missing
For me, events have become an important, but missing piece of the location–based puzzle. Seeing 100 people check into the same place makes me think one thing: what is going on over there? That’s what I’m not being told on Foursquare, Gowalla, and others. It’s the context necessary for me to connect with someone in the same space. What are my friends doing at this location? TriOut does this, but it needs some work on the user interface and the services it pulls information from before I can truly be excited about it.
What’s Going On?
After pulling the events, LBS will need to design ways to raise the most relevant events to the surface. Right now, I have to do way to much digging on the fly. That information “unlocks my city” and helps me “discover the extraordinary in the world around” me. I want to see what else goes on at the places I frequent. For now, we have to wait on this information to be announced via tweets, SMS, and Facebook. The games are a popularity contest empty of any context for me. So my engagement with location-based services are starting to stagnate. What’s their intrinsic value? What purpose does waiting on the next deal serve for you?