This Week in Goal Setting: Foursquare Aspires to Be "Clippy in Your Pocket"
The next version of Foursquare is about making check-ins “faster and lighter,” said CEO Dennis Crowley in an on-stage interview with me last night for Girls in Tech in San Francisco. Crowley called his company’s current apps “clunky and heavy,” and said he is testing new versions that will be out later this quarter that should reduce the time it takes to check in from something like 20 seconds to five seconds.
After that, the company will build versions of its apps that include “passive check-ins” that detect where a regular user is and prompt him or her to check in, Crowley said. He also plans to add a sort of Facebook news feed for Foursquare that better filters relevant information rather than just blasting notifications.
Foursquare is ultimately about offline discovery and exploration, said Crowley. He said his goal is for the app to be a sort of personalized helper with personality, like Microsoft’s much-hated and now-discontinued Clippy office assistant, which tried to anticipate what help users might need with a document.
But instead of lamely asking if a user wants help formatting a list, Foursquare’s “Clippy in your pocket” would know who a user’s friends are, what venues they like, what’s going on in their calendars, where they are, if they are walking fast or slow.
This Clippy, Crowley said, would be “the master of the sensors,” combining all that information to make relevant and serendipitous recommendations.
Some things Foursquare doesn’t want to do, Crowley said, are enable mobile payments, help users check into TV shows, and create content. Everything on Foursquare should involve actions tied to space by latitude and longitude, he said.
Crowley offered some stats about Foursquare: It has 8.5 million registered users. They each have an average of five to eight friends on the service (whereas Facebook is for “everyone you’ve ever made eye contact with in your entire life,” Crowley joked).
Foursquare’s main demographic is ages 24-27, though the service is now seeing pockets of users who are parents of new kids and college students. The company is just starting to analyze data to identify its strongest drivers of growth.
Foursquare has 300,000 merchants registered on its platform and 10,000 developers using its API. It employs 56 people and is hiring as many engineers as it can find, Crowley said, noting that part of the reason he’s in California is to find a larger office space for his growing team in San Francisco.
Here’s a video of the talk taken from the audience by Daniel Odio of AppMakr (he also took the photo above). When Girls in Tech puts out their professional version later this week I’ll add it as well.