Saturday, January 15, 2011

Become a Foursquare mayor. It only costs $2000.

I joined Foursquare about a year and a half ago, which doesn't make me an early adopter, but I guess I was sort of an early adopter. I've written about Foursquare numerous times, including two posts (one from January 2010, and another from May 2010) regarding how to become a mayor in Foursquare. And I should know - during the early days of my Foursquare use, I was at one point holding down over ten mayorships at once.

At that time, I was actually looking at both Foursquare and Gowalla, but soon discovered that Gowalla was not for me. You see, I was using an older Motorola Q phone at the time, and Gowalla was only for those who forked out the money for an iPhone. And later, when I switched phones to the LG env3, Foursquare was available; Gowalla was not.

As more people began to use Foursquare, however, my number of mayorships dwindled. At present I only hold one mayorship, but I've been working at getting other mayorships, using tools such as Mayor Fight and Be The Mayor to do so.

Despite my best efforts, however, and despite the fact that I am a Superuser Level 1 in Foursquare, I will eventually lose my Yogurtime mayorship, and I am ineligible to earn any other mayorships.

I discovered this earlier today, when I checked in at the 99 Cents Only Store in Ontario, California. After my check-in, Foursquare informed me that mobile web users such as myself are ineligible to earn mayorships, but can still earn badges. I was directed to this page:

If you don't have a phone that will run one of our apps (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Winmo7, Symbian) but your phone can access the internet, you can still check in by pointing your mobile web browser to Because most mobile web browsers do not support advanced features like GPS or photo uploads, we have created a simpler foursquare experience that is customized for the mobile web browser’s limitations.

Actually, what they've done is modify their existing experience to "simplify" it. Read on:

For example, you can’t upload photos (no saved photo access), and you can’t earn Mayorships (no GPS) on the mobile web, but it still lets you and your friends find each other as well as see the best tips at the venues around you. If you are able to download an app on your phone, it’s a more complete foursquare experience; if not, we hope you enjoy the set of features we were able to put into the mobile web version!

Actually, I enjoy the set of features that Foursquare USED to have on the mobile web version. I'm not all that hot on taking features away.

In a previous post in September 2009, Robert Scoble referred to "antifeatures":

This week I got a press release from Gowalla. It went on and on about how much better its feature set was than Foursquare, a point of view backed up by one of my favorite tech writers, Zee, so I gave it a second chance.

Why did they claim it was better?

Because their app forces users to use the GPS in their phone to check in. Foursquare does not, the press release says. That is all true....

This “feature” is actually an anti-feature....

Both of these apps are location games. You check in. You get virtual points. Your friends know where you are. This freaks people out. But only one app FORCES you to tell people exactly where you are when you check in: Gowalla. This is going to turn off a lot of people....

But at least Gowalla has been consistent; Foursquare literally changed the rules of the game in the middle of the game. And why did they do this? To prevent cheating. The first step was to make sure that the users of the apps couldn't cheat:

Foursquare is now using your mobile phone’s GPS location (other tactics are used for phones without GPS) to verify your whereabouts to reward only those that happen near the actual place in question. Checkins that appear to take place far from the venue users are trying to checkin to trigger the “cheater code” and block incentives.

The mobile web was a workaround for those who wanted to cheat, but that workaround has now apparently been closed.

As has the ability for mobile web users to legitimately earn mayorships.

Of course, I could still earn Foursquare mayorships if I wanted to. All that I have to do is buy a high end smartphone with GPS enabled, and also buy the high-end service plan that service providers force smartphone users to buy. Lay out $2000 or more, and I can continue to earn mayorships.

It's not worth it.

So when I left the 99 Cents Only Store and went to Rubios, I checked in with the following message:

this may be my last foursquare check-in

So, does anyone want to suggest a location-based service that actually LIKES non-smartphone users?
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