Following a trend of services unbundling their mobile experience across several apps, Foursquare has announced that it will launch a new app, called Swarm, dedicated to check-ins. Coming in the next few weeks, the launch of Swarm will also coincide with a reimagined version of Foursquare, stripped of check-in functionality and dedicated solely to great local discovery and recommendations.
The announcement coincides with an excellent story at The Verge detailing the tough process of discovery that lead to the decision. According to the piece, only 5% of Foursquare user sessions included both social and local discovery – users either wanted to find friends or a restaurant, but not both.
“The more we played with that idea the more we realized that there was a ton we wanted to do on both sides that we can’t do if they are married together,” says Jon Steinback, Foursquare’s VP of product experience. “It’s like were were in a three legged race and each side was slowing the other side down.”
A streamlined app dedicated solely to telling your friends that you’re around and up for a drink harkens back to the original Foursquare experience of 2008, but also the recently launched Facebook Nearby Friends feature. Foursquare’s CEO Dennis Crowley is confident that the company can compete with Facebook for two reasons: it’s superior “Pilgrim” location-guessing engine, and the fact that Facebook friends lists are too large and varied for users to feel comfortable broadcasting their location (remember that Facebook once offered a check-in feature that completely failed).
Whether dedicated Foursquare badge-hounds will flock to Swarm remains to be seen, but the company will likely win simply by removing the confusing spectre of check-ins and privacy concerns that had impeded Foursquare’s growth. We’ll let you know when more information on both apps is available, but for now you can sign up at swarmapp.com to be notified when its ready for download.