By Anne Collier
Foursquare, the service that allows people to text to the world when they’ve arrived at the corner doughnut shop (that’s called a “checkin”) just passed the 100 million checkin mark, Mashable reports. That’s not registered users – more like 100 million Facebook updates – but it says something about the growth in geolocation apps’ and games’ popularity. “Foursquare has experienced massive growth in the last 12 months, with nearly 1 million checkins (some people call them “shoutouts”) taking place each day. In fact, it was just over two months ago that the company passed 40 million checkins,” Mashable adds. Services like this (others are Gowalla and BrightKite) – especially Foursquare – seem to be a little more about marketing brands, like the local doughnut shop or Starbucks, than about connecting people in physical locations, though that can happen too.
My eyebrows went up earlier this month, when I read another bit of Foursquare marketing news: Barbie (the doll) as a “celebrity partner” of Foursquare staging “fashion location-based scavenger hunts as she travels across the US to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York on her summer vacay,” tweeting clues on Twitter and checking in Mashable reported earlier. That surprised me a bit because I didn’t think the Barbie market was that into geolocation games, and I wonder if it should be – even if it’s moving into shooting and sharing video. Should kids who play with dolls and video (the new doll Barbie Video Girl is actually a videocamera with a USB port so it can be plugged into a PC for video editing and sharing (here’s her page) be encouraged to announce when they show up in favorite local spots, like Barbie? Foursquare’s a game, too, so it suggests that this is all fun and upside. Kids need to understand that using connected technology – especially where it connects people in physical locations – is not all fun and games. It’s usually mostly positive, but they need to be mindful that announcing where they are to whoever, especially in a habitual way or focused on a place they frequent, is not risk-free. We need to be sure they know they’re not necessarily shouting out to friends. Here’s Pew/Internet on how few tweens and teens use Twitter. They’re working on it but do not yet have data on teen use of Foursquare and other geolocation technologies – Barbie may be way ahead of her fans right now. [See also Ad Age’s look at whether “checkin fatigue” is setting in.]