Dear Foursquare

A Breakup Letter

Oh, Foursquare.

We’re breaking up. It’s not me. It’s you.

I know this may come as something as a surprise; after all I’ve known you longer than I’ve known my wife and been with you more places. I’ve paid extravagant international data plans simply for the pleasure of checking in somewhere. I’ve used you in obscure locations worldwide to find reliably awesome and delicious experiences when the overly US-centric Yelp let me down. You were a hallmark of good mobile design; an app that used my context to allow me to do something novel, useful, and simple. You worked well and were fast. I used you relentlessly, always in the hope that the service was going to become ever more awesome and build upon the rich history and context of my comings and goings. I was feeding the A.I. that would become my best friend. I was in love.

But now, now you’ve failed at everything you were once good at. You didn’t stay true to your roots. You doubted yourself in your middle age. You added cruft and extra dialogs and eventually took that to a whole new extreme, forcing me to install a whole new app just to check in. That would be fine if Swarm had been brilliantly conceived, svelte in aesthetic and incredibly robust. After all, you’re the only company I trust to out-Foursquare Foursquare, and with the whole existing rich database to draw on, it was possible you could. I reluctantly installed Swarm.

But then Swarm sucked. It crashed. All. The. Time. On iOS. On Android. It introduced extra steps before checkin, force-prompting me to say something witty or attach a picture. It was slow. It hung. It consumed lots of data. And I couldn’t go back. Well, most of the time. Every once in a blue moon, when the gods of your mystical gatekeepers permitted, I could steal a date with the old Foursquare and succeed in checking in at a place. But then most of the time, I would get the bizarre notice: “You can’t check in via Foursquare. You must use Swarm.” A product that wilfully refused to perform its core task. A pencil unwilling to write.

I bet you learned this switch-over trick from Facebook. We used it to move people to our native Messenger app. If so, you sought to copy the pattern for all the wrong reasons. What you didn’t see was the incredible amount of work that went into the Messenger app *before* we started switching people to it. It wasn’t until version three(!) of our app and a pretty complete rewrite that we felt comfortable pushing people over to it, because we *knew* it was going to be a better experience than messaging in the full Facebook app, and could measure it. It was a bold move but undertaken after hugely intensive testing and consideration and — most importantly — making the core product awesome. It would have been great if you copied *that* playbook.

Instead, you just shoved avid users into a shitty app that crashes all the time. There’s only so many “Sorry, Swarm has quit” messages a guy can take. So after 3,044 check-ins and 68 badges, your user #11471 is throwing in the towel. Goodbye.

Sincerely, A Former Lover

Aug 9, 2014: A dramatic reading of the above provided by Chad Etzel