Geo services still aren’t easy enough

Posted on March 18, 2013


I have some gripes about Foursquare. There was the well-known guy I follow on Twitter. When he reached out to connect on Foursquare – a platform I don’t use all that much – I got a reminder email from the service just 14 hours later reminding me.

Steady on, Foursquare. You’re coming across as desperate. Foursquare user

But that’s just a detail, possibly a problem of culture. What I’m talking about is more fundamental.

It’s not that it’s a social network too far. It’s not that it’s not as hip as it was 18 months ago.

No, for me it’s because it doesn’t work that well.

I mainly use Foursquare through its Android app on my phone. Only it’s a clunker. When I’m on a familiar wi-fi network it still nudges me to turn on GPS if I’m trying to check in. Then after a minute or so it doesn’t narrow down where I am, which I totally understand is harder if I’m indoors. It then routinely lists places from my last check-in, which these days tends to be from several weeks back.

C’mon. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Yet this is something that happens again and again in tech. A first wave of business models and companies, who look like they’ve got a problem licked (not so sure Foursquare is addressing a problem in my case but it’s an opportunity) often fail. A few years later others try the same market, even with the same business models, and succeed.

Why does that happen? Often tech has improved. Sometimes behaviours or other factors have moved on.

We’ve seen it in retail, mobile internet (remember WAP?), cloud services, MP3 players and more.

What will happen with geo services? There is no doubt that the quality – speed, reliability, accuracy – of geo technologies will get better, barring government interventions that hamstring what’s possible.

Although some geo-related services are possible now, many aren’t easy.

In the meantime, many seemingly great models and start-ups won’t be able to hang around until the technology and our take up have got to where they need to be.

A Foursquare might be able to play a long game. Hundreds of others can’t.

*photo credit: Jorge Quinteros via photopin cc

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

Posted in: Hyperlocal