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Facebook Places, SXSW and foursquare – oh my!

by on Aug.24, 2010, under Location-Based Services

foursquare-sxsw-facebook-places-graphicIn case you haven’t heard, it’s SXSW panel voting season. This year (thanks to Monica Wright‘s encouragement) I’ve submitted a panel that combines three of my favorite subjects, SXSW (My trip there this year blew me away!), foursquare (you know I’m addicted!) and Foursquare Day (zomg you didn’t know I was all up in that?). It’s titled Foursquare Day: Realizing the Location-Based Services Revolution. Foursquare Day founder Nate Bonilla-Warford will be co-presenting with me on the proposed panel! (UPDATE: Voting ends THIS Friday night so vote now!)

With special thanks to the thoughts and insights from Foursquare Day co-organizer Jessica Barnett and SXSW alum Margot Bloomstein (who has her own awesome panel up for vote!) Nate and I were able to put together a kickass proposed panel (atleast foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley thinks so! [Thanks @dens!]). The panel discusses the current and future possibilities of Location-Based Services, using Foursquare Day 2010 as a case study for how we helped accelerate that future and discusses how YOU can help realize the full potential future through participating in Foursquare Day 2011! Please check out our panel and vote for it! (Be sure to leave a comment here or on the panel picker if you do, thanks!)

Now, as you know, Facebook launched Facebook Places last week, and during the launch event they shared the stage with foursquare (and other partners) to speak about possibly integrating with Facebook Places. Now comes the ensuing discussion about foursquare’s relevance now that Facebook will be deploying Location-Based Services to their 500,000,000 users. Given the panel topic and our thesis about Foursquare Day 2011 I feel that I need to weigh in on the subject: I don’t think that foursquare is going to go away anytime soon. I think that Facebook Places will either integrate smoothly with foursquare to their mutual benefit or foursquare will march on without them to continued success.

On one side of the argument I think that the opportunity for foursquare here is tremendous. Facebook included foursquare at their Places launch event and appear to want them to integrate with their Places service in some meaningful way. They’ve also opened the door up for others to integrate as well (Gowalla, MyTown and Yelp so far). Effectively Facebook has handed the keys to their 500 million users to all these services. Given Facebook’s simplistic “check in and find out where your friends are checked in” service model I think there is a very strong possibility that Facebook intends to completely leave “value-added” experiences like badges, discounts and mayorships to 3rd parties to deliver. This might play out in the way Facebook applications have played out – 3rd parties would compete on the merit of their value-adding check in experiences through the marketplace of Facebook users choosing to integrate their service, or not. Given this opportunity the future is bright for foursquare: Facebook Places integration means that foursquare’s user base can grow as Facebook Places goes (which is already happening, by virtue of Facebook Places being a mainstream LBS educator). A win, win.

Now on the other hand, there is the possibility that Facebook and foursquare will never play nice and/or Facebook Places will not become a force for foursquare to reckon with. Some of these points were explored during the August 24th #4SqCHAT (which I strongly encourage everyone, especially fans of foursquare or LBS, to check out). I found the discussion to be very interesting- here are some tweet-highlights that shed light on this “other side of the coin”-

To recap, the feeling is that Facebook Places is currently just barely viable, Mashable readers atleast still prefer foursquare, yet if only 1% of Facebook adopts Places it’ll be bigger than foursquare. One of foursquare’s opportunities here is to convert Facebook Places users (as I discussed above). But hope for Facebook Places integration should be tempered by the fact that Facebook and Twitter have not played nicely in the past. Of course, since only 1% adoption makes Facebook Places huge the business opportunity is also huge, but it if only businesses are excited about this (I too am guilty of this, thinking from a marketing perspective and being excited there more than anything) then that’s a bad sign. This led the group to think on motives behind why foursquare was created versus Facebook Places, which pointed out that the spirit behind each yields different community reactions (Facebook rebellion as a movement versus Foursquare Day as a movement).

With either possibility, Facebook Places integrating smoothly with foursquare to their mutual benefit or foursquare marching on without them to continued success, it’s pretty clear that foursquare does not need to check out of the Location-Based Services game. Facebook Places may earn the “uber-mega-super-duper swarm” badge for having a larger user base, they won’t take over as mayor anytime soon. However by growing the LBS community, be it through Facebook or foursquare, we all stand to benefit- and that’s why I’ve proposed the SXSW panel. Please give it a vote, spread the word and let us know what you think!

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