Foursquare splinters itself in two, will launch new app called 'Swarm'

Swarm will provide mobile messaging based on the locations of friends

The landing page for Foursquare's upcoming app, Swarm.

The landing page for Foursquare's upcoming app, Swarm.

Foursquare, one of the first apps to put location-sharing on the map, is rethinking its service and dividing it in two in an effort to stay relevant.

The company will soon launch a messaging app called "Swarm," designed to let users keep in touch with their friends. Social networking has been a big part of the main Foursquare app, but now the company will be siphoning off those services.

Swarm users will be able to see which of their friends are nearby and share what they're doing more easily than with the current Foursquare app, the company said in its announcement.

"We wanted to build a quick way for you to know these two things for all of your friends," Foursquare said.

Swarm will be available on iOS and Android in the coming weeks and soon after on Windows Phone. People can tell Foursquare they're interested at swarmapp.com, and Foursquare will send an email when it's ready.

Meanwhile, the main Foursquare app will stay focused on search and location discovery, though it will rely heavily on delivering more personalized recommendations. Foursquare did not say exactly how it would be delivering its tailored recommendations, though it may be based on users' history of places visited and the activity of trusted contacts.

Oddly though, Foursquare will be eliminating the check-in button in its new app, according to a report on The Verge. The button was Foursquare's main consumer-facing function in the first place. The company will likely face new challenges in delivering personalized recommendations without the data provided by the button.

Foursquare did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Foursquare faces enormous challenges in keeping users and businesses engaged with its service. Mobile location-sharing was hot when the company introduced it in 2009, but since then smartphones have exploded in popularity and consumers have taken to doing many more things on them.

There are now entire industries built around mobile messaging, games and automated location-based notifications.

"The explicit check-in has become passe," said Brian Blau, an industry analyst with Gartner. To stay alive, Foursquare has to do something.

Splintering itself in two could provide a way to provide a more focused service around specific experiences. Facebook has even embarked on a similar multi-app strategy around specific types of sharing as its service has become bloated.

But Swarm does not sound like a revolutionary product and may even be a risky move. Other startups have sought to provide a messaging service based on where a user's friends are, but some users are uneasy with passively broadcasting their location at all times.

The new discovery-focused version of Foursquare will be made available in the summer. Swarm and the main Foursquare app will work seamlessly together, the company said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesconsumer electronicsFoursquaresmartphonessocial networkinginternetsocial mediamobilemobile applications

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