Imagine a world in which as soon as you arrived anywhere, an alert was sent out to your friends, family and people you don't even know.
That's the idea behind Foursquare, a popular mobile app that says it has a quarter of a million users.
FourSquare is a location-based mobile app that aims to provide tips for restaurants and other venues via a virtual trail of breadcrumbs left by friends and others in the network.
It's not the first social-media tool out there to offer people the opportunity to be stalked online. Facebook and Twitter users are accustomed to sending out blasts of personal information. But now the market for location-based applications has exploded, with services such Loopt, Gowalla and MyTown jumping in. Even the Web site Yelp now has a feature that lets users "check in" to a venue.
Initially I had shied away from using Foursquare for two reasons: the idea of broadcasting my location always unnerved me, and for BlackBerry users like me, the app was only available on the iPhone, Android devices and the Palm Pre.
But now with more people I know joining, I attempted to get in on the Foursquare game.
The basic function is simple. It uses the device's GPS to determine your location for check-ins, and also lets you locate nearby friends. Users receive virtual "badges" and rewards points for doing things like checking into a favorite spot multiple times, or checking into several venues in one day.
After downloading the app for my iPhone, Foursquare offered various ways to find friends, such as through my Twitter and Facebook accounts, or by name or phone number. After adding a few friends, I was ready to check in.
I opted to receive "pings" when my Foursquare friends check in to places, which is very useful when they are nearby, but just more virtual clutter when they checked into places in faraway cities like Hong Kong. There's also a section that offers helpful venue tips from other users, as well as the ability to leave your own tips.
erver. Later that day, it finally worked.
So is Foursquare worth it? Overall, I think more of my contacts would have to join and the incentives offered would have to be greater before I'd find value in checking in often. For now, I'm checking out.