Foursquare has a piddlingly small user base. Which is precisely why it's is going to rule the world, say people quoted in today's New York Times story on the mobile-phone social network. This should sound familiar.
Two years ago, the Times was quoting the same sort of fabulous young people saying that a different teeny-tiny social network, Harvey Weinstein's A Small World, was going to be the cool new thing. But traffic quickly flatlined, and Weinstein earlier this month finally relinquished his stake in the disappointing property.
Foursquare, admittedly, seems slightly more interesting: It has an innovative, GPS-based "check-in" technology that allows you to register your location; and like Twitter in its early days it has caught on among the hipster dot-com digerati. But its 60,000 users are nothing to brag about, and there are some interesting parallels between how it and A Small World were packaged in the Times:
Picture of worldly young women? Check.
- Foursqaure: "Emily Woolf, far right, uses, Foursquare.... to find her friends when she wants to meet."
- A Small World: "Laura Rubin, a brand consultant and fashion publicist.... combed [the site] for guests to attend a fashion party in the glass-enclosed penthouse of Hotel on Rivington on the Lower East Side."
Trashing of other social networks as overrun? Check.
- Foursquare: "Supersize services like Facebook and Twitter... have millions of members... [Foursquare] is not yet cluttered with celebrities, nosy mothers-in-law or annoying co-workers."
- A Small World: "Sleeker than MySpace or Facebook, aSmallWorld.net is not the type of site where one is likely to come across videos of amateur motorcycle stunts or girls in bikinis."
Obnoxious users quoted? Check.
- Foursquare: "At this point, I don't even bother texting or calling my friends. I just check Foursquare to see if they're nearby and go meet them." —Emily Woolf, 24. "On Twitter, there are more than 3,000 people that follow me... Foursquare is more the people that I actually want to hang out with." —Annie Heckenberger, 36.
- A Small World: "In reply to a query from a comely young woman searching for a hairdresser in Singapore, a Procter & Gamble executive there responded with a thinly veiled proposition: 'I have two bottles of Nice n' Easy in the cupboard. I'll do it for free.'"
Is it for people of refined taste and discretion? Check.
- Foursquare: "One factor that might help Foursquare retain its intimate feel is that most of its members... many urbanites in their 20s and 30s.... are picky about who can see the real-time footprints that they are leaving across the cities in which they live."
- A Small World: "The site functions much like an inscrutable co-op board: its members, who pay no fee, induct newcomers on the basis of education, profession and most important, their network of personal contacts."
Foursquare: Everyone goes there, because it's not crowded.