The other day my friend and me had an argument over foursquare check ins.
Friend: Why are there no foursuqare checkin buttons for the web? Store websites can show it on their mobile sites.
Me: huh dont you know Frousquare doesnt encourage check ins on web?
Friend: Why is that?
Me: For foursquare location is foremost important and they have a very tight control over it using their mobile app. May be the day the entire world moves onto smartphone with html5 browsers they may have check in button on their website. Also may be an external checkin button but they should take care of the location carefully.
Friend: What is there to take care of?
Me: ie the button shouldnt allow the user to checkin unless he is atleast near the store. Also most of the store websites doesnt really have separate websites for different locations. And also oauth etc. It will be messy. It will be easier for users to open the 4sq app and checkin rather than using the web checkin button.
Friend: I dont think the stores are really worried about locations. They just want people to check in
Me: Huh how does it make sense? Their check in based offers are to bring the user to the store. Also semantically a checkin is a way the user confirms his presence in a particular location.
Friend: I dont think so. The stores just want their names to come on the user's Facebook wall.
Me: Actually a checkin doesnt show up on FB. You are manually or automatically SHARING your checkin on FB. Thats optional.
Friend: The 4sq app does allow you to checkin to any place. Then why is that?
Me: Ideally they shouldnt.
We then try to check in to Bangalore International Airport on 4sq and it doesnt show up in the search results. We try again with some far way stores and some of them show up as anomalies.
Me: See what i said. I think the ones which are showing up are just bugs. Its a matter of time before they fix it.
Friend by now goes to his check in history, clicks on a location and fake checks in there.
Friend: See I can
Me: Its called breaking the system. I didnt say you cant do that. But stillit is not going to help the stores
Friend: Why not?
Me: Normally when i share my 4sq check ins on Social Networks, good conversations get sparked on; I genuinely want my friends to know i was there and the stores also want that to happen. If I fake check in, I wouldn't share it on social networks as I have to behave well in the network. So its not helping the store like you said.
Friend: I really think foursquare is just a sharing mechanism. It just have your location with it. Like how you can tag your location with every tweet or FB update.
Me: I dont think so. As i said before, a check in and its sharing are two different things. Foursquare wouldnt want to be just a sharing mechanism like you said as they would then run the risk of losing their credibility and utility.
The day Foursquare loses its control over the user's behavior they are dead. They need to bring in some credibility and authenticity to the user's action. They have the social network etiquettes users follow to help them half way and the rest of the things should be taken care of by technology. In simple terms the whole point of Foursquare is to make people visit places.
Btw I like the idea of displaying QR codes on Store doors, when scanned would check in the user on Foursquare.