Foursquare is something quite inventive. This social networking site uses mobile phone access to get the users together in real world, and actually awards them not for sitting in front of their screens, but for getting out there into the real world and exploring their cities.
Foursquare first appeared in 2000 as Dodgeball. This site was also about connecting with mobile phones and receiving notifications about friends, events, or interesting places near by. Dodgeball was bought by Google, but the creators didn't get along with the company, so they left and created Foursquare. This new version of the idea aims at creating a lively community of people who go to places, share their opinions about them, meet together and learn more about the city they live in.
The first thing a new user must do is to download the Foursquare application to his or her phone. If the phone doesn't have a working web browser, the user will be able to send text messages to a special number. Then, the user can go to a place and 'check in' using the phone, and notify the service about his wherebouts.
The service can give him awards (badges) for the number of check-ins, and also get him in touch with people who are currently near by. Users also submit their opinions about places, leaving information about the best and worse dishes on the menu, and similar things.
Foursquare offers not only virtual badges and written titles to its most loyal users. Those who visit certain venues most often can count on a number of nice freebies, like drinks, desserts, and of course, offline fame.
Even though the most of the sites activity goes through mobile phones, the site itself is very pleasant and well designed. The colour scheme is rather traditional, with blue and white all over, but it fits the logo and goes well with the contents of the site.
There are maps with venues marked on them, which helps a lot with finding the place to visit. One thing that i didn't like that much, was the fact that profile pictures thumbnails, are too small to recognise, and when put together on a page form a colourful puzzle, more than a collection of photos.
This service could be a really nice time and adventure organiser for people who enjoy spending time on new places, with new people. Or those who want to emphasize their love for one particular venue (by checking in often and becoming the mayor).
What i really like about this idea, is the fact that it brings together the powers of the internet and mobile communication, with social networking in the streets. Maybe it shows us the way in which social sites will develop?
Unfortunately for non US users, the site is available only in the USA.