Foursquare, Dennis Crowley’s location-based mobile app, is splitting itself into two separate mobile products: a social check-in app, Swarm, and a venue-discovery app, Foursquare.
Swarm is taking on all of Foursquare's social features, such as check-ins and friends' whereabouts. It will be launching in the upcoming weeks.
Crowley describes it as a "social heatmap" to The Verge, one that shows where you and your friends are without always having to check in. The new app uses a number of signals from your phone, from GPS to the numbers of bars, to more accurately guess where a user is. And it can reveal which neighborhood you're in to friends.
It sounds as if Swarm might also have a messaging or "broadcast" component that lets you meet up with friends nearby more easily.
The existing Foursquare app will focus on the Explore feature and make Crowley's company much closer to a full-on Yelp competitor. Explore is a way to search for things to do and places to visit based on check-in data. It doesn't sound like the app will keep its check-in button.
Foursquare began rebuilding its app and working on Swarm in late 2013. It noticed that users were either using Foursquare to find cool new places or to check in, but most people weren't doing both at the same time.
"Our company has always been about helping you keep up and meet up with their friends, and discover great places," the company wrote in a blog post. "Our two new, unbundled apps are designed to do that for everyone. Swarm is for people who want the fastest and easiest way to connect with their friends. Foursquare is for explorers who want to know about the best spots, and to share what they’ve found with others."
This is a massive roll of the dice for Foursquare. It launched in 2009 and was a hot application. In 2010, it reportedly turned down a $120 million offer from Yahoo and then Facebook because it thought it could build a bigger business.
For a while, it looked like it was right. It gained tens of millions of users and billions of check-ins. It raised venture-capital funding at a $600 million valuation in 2011. But then usage hit a wall, and it never grew into a massive social platform like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Now, Foursquare is dialing back its ambitions to be a major social network. Instead, it wants to be a better Yelp, which the world could use. But in terms of business opportunity, Yelp has a market cap of $4 billion. Twitter's market cap is $23 billion. Facebook's is $160 billion.
Here's what Swarm will look like, according to The Verge:
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