Infographic: Is the value of Foursquare overstated?

By Pitzyper (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jim Dougherty

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After failing to secure additional funding this year and the revelation that they had taken in a paltry $2 million in revenue in 2012, Foursquare was able to secure bank financing to prevent a hasty sale. When Facebook’s Graph Search was released, I assumed that Foursquare’s check-in data would be in high demand as Facebook tried to make Graph Search a more robust product.

I may have been mistaken to think Foursquare was such a hot commodity. This is an infographic from 2011 showing that in Foursquare’s heyday Facebook was getting demonstrably more check-ins than Foursquare (self-disclosure: I had quite a bit of civic responsibility as mayor of many parks and coffee shops in Redmond, Washington). I could be that there’s a qualitative difference in the data between 4SQ and FB, but the likelihood of that is pretty low. Which means that Foursquare is not as attractive acquisition as I thought and that if Graph Search is going to be as robust as Facebook hopes they are going to have to find a way to generate a lot more social signals.

I’m curious about how Foursquare’s future will play out. Let me know what you think about the current state of Foursquare and Graph Search, or of this infographic.



Photo by Pitzyper (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.


  1. says

    I was an active user back in 2010. As an early adopter of Foursquare, I felt as though the platform has a lot of potential to benefit both businesses and customers. It really never happened. Missed opportunity.

    • jimdougherty says

      Thanks Ann Marie – I feel the same. I knew something was going on when I would try and redeem Foursquare promotions and employees didn’t know how to redeem them.

  2. dwaynekilbourne says

    I love foursquare and use it religiously everyday… I’m not giving up on it, but then again I am biased (see 4sqLoveStory)

    • jimdougherty says

      …as well you should be! It’s not that people don’t love 4sq, just that they’re basically giving that service away. They also offer access to their map API for plenty of sites – so they are doing important stuff, they’re just not getting paid for it. :)

  3. says

    I live in Colombia and I am seeing more use of foursquare in businesses and costumers, but most of the people just have the enough data to use facebook and twitter. I love Foursquare, but it is needed a full data plan in your smartphone to checkin. Foursquare is not the hotness but is there, pushing the information.

    • jimdougherty says

      Thanks Lorena, a very interesting insight! Twitter found a work-around for that issue last year, but I don’t know that 4sq could. Thanks for sharing that!

  4. says

    I think Foursquare will make it.

    Just ask yourself what would be your best app to find a good place to eat, drink or explore
    when you are travelling?

    You have to understand that Foursquare popularity is bound by smartphone penetration.
    Twitter and Facebook took off in the space of desktop computing that was already established.

    So stop asking yourself the same thing all the time, relax and enjoy checking in ;)

    • jimdougherty says

      Thanks Tas,

      Foursquare may survive in some iteration, but they were probably in a position before their loan to shutter their doors.

      It’s not that the user experience is any different (it has improved, right?), but businesses aren’t spending money with 4sq, And at a very basic level, Foursquare needs far more revenue to stay in business.

      Facebook or Google (Yahoo?) could acquire 4sq and keep the user experience the same, but they’re going to find the same monetization challenges. So, my expectation is that the Foursquare platform will start changing to reflect a need for money and sooner or later ownership will change as well.

      But my point had nothing to do with the user experience. They’re just giving that away on the cheap, :)

  5. Michael Tracy says

    Jim, great article, with amazing data! Quick question,why are daily deal apps/sites considered social location apps? For example, you can purchase and redeem a Groupon without notifying your social graph, so there are no real privacy concerns. Granted with most Groupons, you have to visit the location to redeem it. But then again that is true for many ‘coupon’ apps in general.

    • jimdougherty says

      Thanks Michael, I don’t know the specifics of how they use it, but the location data for Groupon is provided through the Foursquare API. I assume Foursquare collects and utilizes that data, but I don’t know how they associate or leverage it. Of course you can sign into Groupon using Facebook, and they probably make better use of that data.

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