How Foursquare lost 10m? users

Popular location based mobile app FourSquare has made itself a case study on how not to communicate or manage its users. A few days ago they stopped their legacy app from working and insisted that all users download a new app called swarm.

That new app has all kinds of problems and no one needs to be testing a rubbish app when they might already have 20 apps or more on a mobile device.

Foursquare announced that 3/4 of users had migrated but based on the tweets and posts I have seen there are some very vocal and unhappy users. I also read feedback on google and apple stores and it is not the kind of feedback that makes anyone excited to switch over.

I thought they might try to improve the code and the UX in the new app but they seem to be insisting everyone move to a poorly coded app.

Have they lost 10m users? I don’t know but it would be millions and it didn’t need to happen.

In December 2013 the company reported 45m users. The active user base is typically much lower than the 45m figure. Recent blog posts signal that up to 1/4 of users never moved over to Swarm. That is where my estimate of 10m unhappy users comes from. Whatever the real number it must be in the millions.

There is a bit of a track of unhappy uses over on this twitter feed


The gamified checkin app however did attract some committed users. I used to joke that many of these users (myself) included had OCD tendencies. OCD is not really something to joke about but observing the way other users acted and interacted made me think that this type of users would be a group one would need to manage with caution.

For most of my use ( starting August 2010 when they had less than 5m) to recently I was checking in privately because app generated spam is still spam. there was never any point to showing my location on twitter or some other app because i could do that anyway and I chose not to.

I am not interested in ambient check-ins. I was interested in some local info about locations that I visited but I can live without that or find it on yelp if I want to. Ironically Foursquare says they will have local search on another app called foursquare but it is too late for me.

Some have suggested that the gamification was a way to incentivise users to enter in the local data. If that was the rationale it worked well but it was also kind of fun. In the last 2 years though I used it when on holiday or travelling outside my home city or to log how many times I went to to the gym / pool.

When travelling if I checked in at a location I hadn’t been to before it was useful to know if one or more of my friends had done that. If you are in a small town and everyone goes to that one cafe there might be a reason for that.

But since I live in a town with few Foursquare users the checkin with friends has never been that useful. And even if friends were close by – in 5 years it has only been useful to me on 1 single ocassion.

David Weekly  @dweekly on twitter wrote the Breaking Up with Foursquare post below.

David is  PM @Facebook. Founder of @DroneVC, @PBworks, @SHDH, @HackerDojo, @MexicanVC. Wed to @RebeccaLipon  – I have quoted the first two paragraphs


“Oh, Foursquare.

We’re breaking up. It’s not me. It’s you.

I know this may come as something as a surprise; after all I’ve known you longer than I’ve known my wife and been with you more places. I’ve paid extravagant international data plans simply for the pleasure of checking in somewhere. I’ve used you in obscure locations worldwide to find reliably awesome and delicious experiences when the overly US-centric Yelp let me down. You were a hallmark of good mobile design; an app that used my context to allow me to do something novel, useful, and simple. You worked well and were fast. I used you relentlessly, always in the hope that the service was going to become ever more awesome and build upon the rich history and context of my comings and goings. I was feeding the A.I. that would become my best friend. I was in love.

But now, now you’ve failed at everything you were once good at. You didn’t stay true to your roots. You doubted yourself in your middle age. You added cruft and extra dialogs and eventually took that to a whole new extreme, forcing me to install a whole new app just to check in. That would be fine if Swarm had been brilliantly conceived, svelte in aesthetic and incredibly robust. After all, you’re the only company I trust to out-Foursquare Foursquare, and with the whole existing rich database to draw on, it was possible you could. I reluctantly installed Swarm”.

Continue reading David’s post

Only one thing left to do now I have already deleted the app off my phone and ipad is to delete my account. If you login it is not obvious how to do that but here is a link

How to delete your foursquare account.

In my view this is a huge miscalculation on the part of the foursquare management team. I made more than 5000 checkins in 5 years but that is all gone now. The only customer conversation that is remotely like this is from 2001: A Space Odyssey except this time the part of HAL is taken by foursquare management.

HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it. …HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

And it is done. Deleted. Here is a screenshot of what I may have lost. Actually I still have all the photos and my real friends – the rest is un-needed.