Mobile

How a relaunch saved Foursquare from certain death

Foursquare’s pivot may have saved the company, early adoption stats reveal.

Back in May, Foursquare announced a startling new direction: a complicated plan to split itself into two separate services, with a namesake app for discovery and a new check-in app called “Swarm.” The news, of course, sent power users into a panic.

But with spastic yet strong adoption, Swarm rose up the charts on iOS and Android. Then, on Wednesday Foursquare relaunched its self-titled app with an exclusive focus on restaurant and business discovery. Five days later, users across iOS and Android seem to endorse the change, according to data from app tracking site App Annie.

Now, a look back at the data makes it perfectly clear how dire Foursquare’s situation was, and how successful Foursquare’s new namesake app has been in reversing a frightening trend.

This chart, depicting download rates on iOS from February 8, 2010 to today, says it all — from Foursquare’s rise to fame to its incredible free-fall, which kicked off around mid-September 2013.

foursquares decline ios app annie

Now, let’s take a closer look at the most interesting part of that chart … the chaos on the far right: the day before Foursquare’s relaunch, the company ranked #1,221 overall among iOS apps in the U.S. The following day, Foursquare jumped to #457.

As of today, App Annie reports that Foursquare ranks #394 among all iOS apps in the U.S., and #18 among all iOS travel apps in the U.S.

Foursquare iOS app store stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10.

Above: Foursquare iOS App Store stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10 (hourly).

Following the relaunch on Android, Foursquare ranks #461 in the U.S. out of all Android apps; prior to the reboot, Foursquare didn’t even rank among the top 600. Note the category switch [above and below] from “social” to “travel.”

Foursquare Google Play stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10 (daily).

Above: Foursquare Google Play stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10 (daily).

And now, Swarm: The app launched and rose to #62 overall in the U.S. on iOS in May. It quickly dropped off the charts, and then peaked late July to an incredibly high #11 among all top iOS apps in the U.S. The app did not reach similar heights following Foursquare’s relaunch, but still ranks far higher than Foursquare at #210 overall in the U.S. on iOS, and #24 among top social networking apps in the U.S.

swarm ios app annie stats may 15 to aug 9

On Android, Swarm’s proven far less predictable, but continues to perform quite well when compared to Foursquare’s self-titled app.

swarm Android app annie stats may 15 to aug 10

The app store download stats above paint a rather clear picture. For nearly a year, Foursquare has consistently plummeted in the app store. The relaunch stopped this trend cold.

It’s noteworthy, however, that app store download rates are only one among many metrics for understanding the popularity of an app. Daily active user stats, for example, would offer a clearer look at Foursquare’s relevancy. Reached by VentureBeat for comment, Foursquare refused to provide official daily active user stats.

The company did offer us one key nugget of information: “on our first day,” said a Foursquare spokesperson, “we had five times as many tips as our best day ever.” Clearly the reboot is sticky. At least in the short-term.

App ratings, another volatile yet important metric, also somewhat reinforce the numbers above. Prior to its relaunch, Foursquare users were furious with the change. Among 1,107 votes, the previous version of the app was rated 1.5 stars in the App Store. Following the relaunch, the latest version of the app now carries a 2-star rating following over 1,000 votes. That’s an improvement, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Foursquare's user rating in the App Store prior to the reboot.

Above: Foursquare’s user rating in the App Store prior to the reboot.

The long game: annihilate Yelp?

Although Foursquare appears better off following the relaunch, the company has a long way to go if it truly wants to unseat Yelp on mobile. Since launching on iOS years ago, Yelp has steadily grown and now ranks #35 among all apps in the U.S., #2 among travel apps in the U.S. On Android, Yelp ranks similarly strong. As a reminder, on iOS, Foursquare ranks #394 among all apps in the U.S., and #18 among all iOS travel apps in the U.S.

Foursquare is off to a strong start, but the company can’t celebrate yet. Most interestingly, Swarm may ultimately help carry Foursquare to success. Stats show the check-in isn’t dead after all, even if Foursquare had to move in a new direction to keep the lights on.

More information:

Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtu... read more »

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78 comments
don king
don king

I'd be interested if you'd write the same now again, since the update is 3 weeks old... For me the download increase was news, not quality driven. I like the new but small app foodprint. It is just about food and drink, but I think this one is worth a try...

Wilson Zorn
Wilson Zorn

So they have more "downloads."  Isn't the point to make money?????  So far, the "turnaround" (how can it be a 'turnaround" when they still weren't making money before?) hasn't proven anything, yet.  So far, the point is...there is no point.  Foursquare has not proven ANYTHING yet, in terms of creating a viable business. 

Mike Hammett
Mike Hammett

Foursquare is now certainly going to die.

Ian Moss
Ian Moss

I guess it's the 'be your own competitor' addeage

Aisha Taylor
Aisha Taylor

They had to change, but splitting it wasn't the answer. They needed to talk to the users and see why we liked it and amplify that, not try to be Yelp or UrbanSpoon or the other hundred location recommendation and review apps. It sucks so much now.

Leandro Mendes
Leandro Mendes

Elias, você tem uma visão incrível pra isso, sério haha

Tanvir Khandaker
Tanvir Khandaker

Foursquare is not Facebook logo change will not help I wish it was that simple

Me I AM
Me I AM

While Foursquare may have been saved from death, they're still in a coma. Their data is really old, they don't listen to their users, they don't allow for actual reviews, there is no sorting of tips based on date with the app version. However, you do have this ability in the desktop version? What's a desktop you  say, exactly.


The only good thing currently about Foursquare is that it doesn't shape the ratings. If you go to Yelp, you will see countless of very good, legitimate comments (many negatives) basically hidden in an area where most people would never look. The reviews also don't count toward the overall rating of the business. This is technically shaping the rating system, yet nobody is calling Yelp out on this. It also doesn't give the user an idea of the negatives of the merchant, where no matter how good the merchant is, they will have some issues.


Nonetheless, Yelp seems to ignore this and promotes stellar reviews. Just look at the 4 or 5 star ratings. For most reasonable people 5 stars means a perfect score. It's very rare for me to give 5 stars period, especially in the hospitality industry.

MrFester *
MrFester *

Here is the problem with Fourfail.  They don't listen to anyone. They do not take mass polls or question users for feedback in anyway. Companies like Google and Facebook can get away with shoving change down consumers throats like that because of the captured audience.    Fourfail is just single app no one gives a damn about anymore. 

David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz

It's still nuts that you have to rely on some third-party for any data whatsoever. When is Foursquare going to release data on unique user numbers? 

Donnie Sinclair
Donnie Sinclair

After all the check in "fun" was removed, all of my friends stopped using it.

Peter Lavitt
Peter Lavitt

Ridiculous fragmented crap! Both apps deleted and I was a initial user. I know... let's change something that everybody was enjoying to something that nobody wants to learn how to use let's take away features and call it improved... Lame!

Peter Lavitt
Peter Lavitt

It's funny because I am seeing several different apps splitting in two. Look at Facebook for example. Now it has the messenger app that you have to use. Completely lame.

Andy Crowther
Andy Crowther

It was rated a 1 when the idea was suggested, it's now rated a 2...  it went up...  it's a success!  Err?  No...


What was it rated before the idea was suggested?  Was it higher than 2?  I bet it was.

Max Schmitt
Max Schmitt

How much did Dennis Crowley pay for this piece?

Annihilation of Yelp? Yeah, sure, dream on.

The numbers are mostly due to the novelty factor, nothing more, nothing less, they'll taper off quickly, For swarm they already have, at least in Europe.

The ratings in the apps stores are pretty much in the toilet, the comments on 4sq's social maeida presences are scathing and fout out in f9ve reviews in the media are bad.

That there are people unhappy with change, any change, is nothing new. We all know that. The difrference here is the ratio of bnegative to positive comments and reviews, which in a successful change or relaunch is usually something like  1 to 10 or 1 to 20 good to bad in the worst conceivable case. For 4sq it's more like 1 to 200 or more. 

The fact that 4sq completely refuses to even acknowledge critics and makes outrageous claim that nobody outside the company will believe (15 million tastes inthe first day, 4 times more tips in the first day than on the previous best day) adds to the feeling that this relaunch is far less successful than 4sq would like us to believe.

Ryan M Bertoldi
Ryan M Bertoldi

I def like the new Air logo, makes a difference in the overall branding surely.

Ronaldo Rivera
Ronaldo Rivera

Since the re-facing I've found myself using it more often. Now Swarm makes sense.

Jordan Brown
Jordan Brown

Should soon be a case study in business schools everywhere

Jonathan Schalliol
Jonathan Schalliol

Seems to me like the bumps talked about in this article are from newness not from quality.  Everyone tries that new restaurant once…


The Swarm app reviews on iTunes Store are HORRIBLE.  I'm talking 1.5 stars with 4500 reviews!  Swarm and Foursquare are putting the company on the cliff.  It sure may make it, but why two apps?!  They can do all of this in one, and I can't tell you how irritating it is to be passed back and forth between the apps!

Derrick Mains
Derrick Mains

I had been using it since it began.. I deleted it... So it's now dead to me

Marin Jø
Marin Jø

how much you cash in VentureBeat

Willis Chan
Willis Chan

So they are trying to compete with Yelp?

Jeffrey Thom
Jeffrey Thom

Not sure about that. Latest FourSquare is a nightmare.

Terence Reis
Terence Reis

The ranking spike was expected due to people updating the app. It's rather low for a service in need of big revenue numbers, though.

Raj Tawdé
Raj Tawdé

Doesn't make sense. Every App is consolidating, adding more functionality and these guys splitting features?

Jensen Vang
Jensen Vang

I like four square but my iPhone 4 is too slow for me to use four square. It isn't a business model issue, it is a device issue from a user's perspective. Slow internet prevents viability for four square. Similar rules for other apps.

Richard Ortega
Richard Ortega

So... It's "saved" after one week... Yeah they're going to have to wait a lot longer to change their brand and pivot; not easy when you've been saying one thing for so long

Bill Hickman
Bill Hickman

Dislike the new app and totally hate the entire Swarm direction.. App & Account deleted so #DeadToMe #AppDuJour

Me I AM
Me I AM

I no longer have FB on my mobile device.

Harrison Weber
Harrison Weber moderator VB Staff

@Max Schmitt


"Annihilation of Yelp? Yeah, sure, dream on" -- That's clearly the goal. I illustrated how far ahead Yelp is in the piece.


The tips stat is totally believable, as the company prompts users to do it in the new app. It may also suggest that the company didn't receive that many tips per day before the relaunch.


Of course the numbers are due to newness, but this is the longest stretch of time 4sq has gone without continuous decline. The company's download rates were in the toilet, and now they're not (so far).



Harrison Weber
Harrison Weber moderator VB Staff

@Jonathan Schalliol As I said above, of course the numbers are due to newness, but this is the longest stretch of time 4sq has gone without continuous decline. The company's download rates were in the toilet, and now they're not (so far).


Harrison Weber
Harrison Weber moderator VB Staff

Actually, every app is splitting up. re: Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Harrison Weber
Harrison Weber moderator VB Staff

saved "from certain death" after one week.


Doesn't mean the app will survive. It means the company bought itself some time. We'll have to wait and see how it performs over the weeks/months/year 

Me I AM
Me I AM

@Harrison Weber @Max Schmitt  As I posted above, Yelp won't crumble, Yelp won't go away. Yelp will get even stronger because for most folk, 4Square is dead to them. With Yelp you can check-in, get badges of sorts, and most importantly, they largely favor the merchant or business not only when it comes to advertising but shaping the ratings of the merchant.


As far as the numbers go, people are curious of the new Foursquare, they have or soon have uninstalled it. Let's have some numbers on that please?


IN any event, Yelp is very sneaky, shrewd, and manipulative. That's how a business survives and makes profits, sadly, in this day and age.

Max Schmitt
Max Schmitt

@Harrison Weber The tips numbers completely lack credibility. Sorry. So all of a sudden, even though maybe 10 , 20 precent or so of users have already updated, tips increase fourfold?  I think not. So the 20% or so that are already on the new version should account for almost 4 times the tips of the entire userbase? Sure. And the earth is flat.

Sorry, that does not add up at all.

Max Schmitt
Max Schmitt

@Harrison Weber The download ratres are just not in the toilet because not everybody has updated yet. aprt from that, they are. Swarm has flatlined in Europe already.

Max Schmitt
Max Schmitt

@Harrison Weber He want's to know how moch Crowley paid you, simple question. :-)

Because there is one thing your piece is not: 

Objective.

Max Schmitt
Max Schmitt

@Harrison Weber Yeah, right. and how's that working for DropBox? Nobody has even neard about thiet companion apps. Facebook may be able to get away with it due to sheer size, something 4sq does not have, not by a long shot. FB clearly shows that people hate the split. 

I don't download secondary apps, unless i absolutely need them and when I can, I reevaluate the core app as well, which means after being around since the Symbian version on my Nokia N97 and bein a very actuve superuser, I've dumped 4sq. There's just no point. Swarm only has a remote charm if you live in a metropolis the size of NYC and have tons of 4sq friends, failing that it's pointless.

For me this move reeks of utter desperation. Quikster anyone? New Coke? (At least the people in Atlanta came to their senses, Crowley probably won't.)