Foursquare’s launch of Swarm and the future of apps as service layers for contextualized content

Foursquare’s new Swarm app went live in app stores today, which is meaningful because it is the latest social networking app to embrace the theory of “context for content” we talk to brands so much about. Swarm includes many of the features and benefits of Foursquare (checking into venues, finding your friends nearby, mayorships), but attempts to resolve the necessity of “checking in” by always automatically sharing your general location data. This constant location sharing aims to make social networking by location effortless and create even more serendipitous experiences for users.

foursquare swarm

Per Techcrunch, “The underlying mechanics of Swarm are what’s really interesting here — and more importantly what it says about the next generation of apps you’ll be using on your smartphone. There’s a fundamental shift in the way that we use apps underway, and the symptoms are all over the map… we’re entering the age of apps as service layers. These are apps you have on your phone but only open when you know they explicitly have something to say to you. They aren’t for ‘idle browsing’, they’re purpose built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors, location, history of use and predictive computation. These ‘invisible apps’ are less about the way they look or how many features they cram in and more about maximizing their usefulness to you without monopolizing your attention.”

Previously released omniscient location apps (e.g., Highlight, Loopt, Yobongo, Latitude) were precursors to today’s launch of Swarm but never took off for a few important reasons Foursquare already has handled, including awareness, reach, lack of engaged community and ability to scale. Or perhaps they were merely ahead of their time when it comes to weighing the privacy implications of always-on location with the benefits of serendipitous content and networking. Those are important considerations, after all.

From a brand perspective, Swarm pulls location data from the Foursquare API, so marketers should continue to manage our location information, tips and customer data through the Foursquare dashboards. For now.Later this summer look for more updates on Swarm and Foursquare that will affect and create new opportunities for brands to engage with users through this new class of apps.

Until then, download Swarm here and see what you think.