Mobile

Foursquare looks beyond location: Is your check-in startup in trouble?

Foursquare announced a new partnership today, hinting at how the startup’s ambitions extend beyond location check-ins.

The new partnership is with Runkeeper, a mobile application for tracking your running and jogging activity. When users connect their accounts, they can earn Foursquare badges for their activity in Runkeeper, for example earning a Marathon badge when they run a marathon. Foursquare says this is “the first badge you unlock by doing something, not just checking in.” That also means the badges won’t really be connected to your location, at least not in the way Foursquare’s other badges are — you earn a Gym Rat badge by going to the gym, while you earn Runkeeper badges by running anywhere.

Foursquare says it’s pursuing similar deals with “a handful of carefully selected partners.” This seems like a smart way to keep users connected to Foursquare even if they’re not using the app.

And these partnerships should also help Foursquare keep its badge concept fresh. When I first started using the app, I seemed to earn a new badge every couple of days as a reward for checking in at different locations. I still use Foursquare, but I haven’t earned a new badge in months, which suggests that the current badge system has limitations. (Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong.)

I’m very curious to see who the other partners are, and if, like Runkeeper, they’re only loosely connected to location. If these initial partnerships are a hit, Foursquare could expand beyond location in a more ambitious way. (The latest update to the Foursquare app, version 2.0, also suggests the company has become more interested in activities and activity recommendations.) That could mean trouble for less-established startups that are built around the check-in and badge concepts that Foursquare popularized — you know, the kind of company that describes itself as (for example) “Foursquare for TV.”

Now, I think that a lot of these startups (including Miso, the Foursquare for TV app that I mentioned above) have smart ideas about how to take Foursquare’s basic concepts into new areas. But as Foursquare expands its activity beyond location check-ins, it might turn out that the “Foursquare for X” is actually Foursquare itself.

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