Foursquare launched pre-2010, but its wide adoption over the year and the emergence of many other location-based services signaled a huge trend in the making. Soon, even Facebook got into the game with Facebook Places, which quickly came under scrutiny for its privacy practices. While the services are generally safe to use, it's important to remember to monitor privacy settings to make certain you're only sharing information about your location with people you choose.
Once users were willing to share their whereabouts with friends and contacts, it wasn't long until retailers and other companies jumped into the mix, offering special deals for checking in or becoming the mayor of a certain location. Facebook Deals launched with partners like Gap and Virgin America, offering incentives to visit and check into stores. And after initially competing with other check in services, location-based deal app Loopt Star combined with Facebook Places, offering one unified map.
Location-based services also took advantage of the news, offering a little bit of humor amid the recent in-the-news rigors of airport security; Foursquare offers a Baggage Handler badge, and Loopt even launched a Touched by TSA giveaway to reward fliers for their cooperation with TSA authorities. Foursquare also took advantage of the recent elections, offering badges for voters, too.
And, just last week, one Foursquare superuser rigged his front door to open when he or his close friends checked into his apartment via Foursquare. Slightly extreme but kind of cool.
Find out what's next for location-based apps and services when you read more.
Look for these services to continue productive partnerships with established brands like magazines, retail outlets, or even cities to create specific challenges and badges. Additionally, I expect more incentives for users beyond badges; look for even more money-saving deals and bonuses in 2011. I doubt many users will take advantage of opening their front doors via Foursquare . . . though if these apps could be programed to take out the trash, I'd be OK with that!