July 25, 2011
Foursquare announced 10 million users in June with an amusing infographic. It also boasted a 6:1 ratio of “Yay!”s to “Ugh!”s in Foursquare check-ins, making their users “very happy people.”
But one thing Foursquare users might be less happy about is that check-ins are for keeping tabs on your friends more than actually connecting with them. If you head to a nearby bar looking for a Foursquare friend, you may be drinking alone–he actually checked in just as he was leaving, eager to become the mayor.
René Pinnell himself was disappointed by the lack of spontaneous meeting on Foursquare, so he created Forecast, an iPhone app for future check-ins. Just input a place and time, and your friends will know where to catch up with you later.
“We wanted to have an app that made your everyday activities more social,” says Pinnell, who was recently featured on the Weather Channel. That might include seeing a movie, grabbing a quick lunch, or even grocery shopping.
Forecast wasn’t Pinnell’s first idea for encouraging social serendipity. In May 2010, he began work on the party-planning app Hurricane Party, which was accepted into the Capital Factory early-stage accelerator. It launched at South by Southwest this March and was voted our “hottest startup at SXSW.” Despite all the excitement, Pinnell realized that users were reserving Hurricane Party for formal events rather than spontaneous get-togethers. So he retained the best of the feature-heavy Hurricane Party, launching Forecast in private beta three weeks ago.
Pinnell isn’t divulging user numbers yet, but he says they have doubled every week, with each user inviting an average of 25 friends and 20,000 invites sent on Saturday.
These numbers seem impressive, but what if Foursquare decides to allow its already-established user base to perform future check-ins? It’s possible, admits Pinnell–potential investors ask the same question–but he thinks Foursquare will stick to doing one thing well. Jyri Engeström, former Google product manager of social and mobile apps, also sees promise in future check-ins; in March, he launched Ditto, an app that allows users to post their plans and arrange meetups. Other competitors include New York’s RedRover and San Francisco-based Holler, but Foursquare poses a risk to them all. Forecast users can check in with one click when they arrive at a planned location, and Foursquare could see this as a threat.
To attract users to Forecast, Pinnell’s four-person team will be releasing an open API so other apps can easily integrate future check-ins. That should happen in October, when the app will officially launch (an Android beta version is scheduled for next month). Pinnell also hinted at the possibility of making recommendations and offering discounts based on where users are planning to go.
“The chance for influencing people’s behavior is a lot higher,” explains Pinnell, comparing Forecast to real-time check-ins. “You’re catching them when the plans are being formulated.”
If Forecast can convince enough users that future check-ins are the future, they could become a star player in the check-in space.
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