Android Apps

Google’s barely-noticed leaderboard highlights Foursquare’s advantage

February 20, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka



In a recent update for Google Maps, Google added a leaderboard to show which users have the most check-ins in a day, week, or all-time. The feature wasn’t promoted or listed in the official change log, and barely anyone seemed to notice. A reader chimed in at Android Central, and Engadget said Google “threatens Foursquare under its breath.” If I were Foursquare, I wouldn’t be nervous at all.

Google’s new leaderboard is not a threat to Foursquare. How can it be when so few people use Latitude check-ins? I looked at my Leaderboard and was reminded that not a single person I know in “real-life” was anywhere to be seen. Even my industry friends who I follow on Foursquare and use the app frequently aren’t there. The only people who appear on my Google+ followers, most of whom I don’t want to share my location. Yes, there are people checking-in, but I don’t yet see anyway to control who pops-up on my leaderboard. I can control which circles see my location when I check-in, so why not extend that option?

Foursquare has two major advantages over Google:

  1. It already has a strong established base and brand recognition
  2. Its relationship model was built from the ground-up with location and social in mind.

Leaderboards, on the other hand, are part of Google CEO Larry Page’s mission to hook Google+ into every product. While that may make sense on the surface, the audience on Google+ that I share content with isn’t the same audience I desire to share locations. Foursquare’s audience is nothing but people with whom I want to share that information. The whole point of friending those people is to get recommendations for new places around town to discover, see what my friends are up to, and meet up with contacts when I travel. The system is in place on Foursquare and it works in ways that Google+ tie-ins don’t. Besides, does anyone really want their Google+ streams clouded with check-ins?

It would take something really special for Google to pose any kind of threat to Foursquare. The leaderboards are probably the first step towards a Mayor-like feature that will provide deals to “Locals” who frequent a business. Facebook tried a similar approach when it launched Places, and we’ve already seen the company cower away from the check-in and deal aspect. Foursquare owns this space, and if a social networking giant like Facebook couldn’t take it down, Google+, with only a tenth of Facebook’s users, isn’t likely to change that.

Leaderboards are no threat to Foursquare, but it could be a chance for Google to encourage more people to check-in more frequently. My habits on Foursquare have been influenced by my desire to become or remain Mayor at a couple of locations, so maybe Leaderboards will do the same for Google. To try it out, download the latest version of Google Maps and tap the “See More” button after checking in.