Why Foursquare / Swarm is still my favourite social network

Thê-Minh Trinh
Sep 16, 2016 · 6 min read

Many people used to know Foursquare as the check-in app. Many of my friends see me checking in everywhere and don’t see the point of it, until I explain why. So I decided to share my experience.

A few years ago, the company decided to split their app in two:

  • Foursquare to find the best venues around
  • Swarm for check-ins and as a game for life

Now, let me tell you why these apps are so brilliant.


The reviews you post and the lists you create are public, allowing everybody to enjoy them. However, your history is private. Phew! Similarly to Twitter, there is a following system. People you follow are highlighted in the results: been there, saved this place, left a review, liked or not.

Explore cities and find great places through recommendations

I used to work in Stockholm, a city that I didn’t know at all, where I didn’t know anyone in the beginning. Thankfully, a couple of friends paid me a visit. We braved the winter cold and explored the city.

After a couple of weeks when I talked to my Swedish colleagues, it was like I knew the cool venues they had heard of. One of them even told me that I probably knew the city better than him after just two months! Well, Foursquare may have helped :) Magical power huh?

I indicated my tastes to Foursquare and it’s gotten amazingly good at suggesting places I’ll love. It also shows me where my friends (or the people I follow) have been and if they liked the place or not. I can also find venues by preparing or on the go.

Probably my favourite place in Stockholm to grab a cocktail.

Share nice venues with friends going abroad

“I’m going to Berlin next month for a week-end! Where should I go?”

Going from Paris to another european capital for a week-end is pretty easy. But it’s so short that you want to get the most out of the time you’ll spend, isn’t it? So you ask for advice to your friends who have been there before.

Everyone can enjoy Foursquare! So I usually curate places I loved in short lists (~15 places / city). I also use the history search when I need to find other ones.

Vote for the restaurant where I should go next with friends

“See you next Wednesday for dinner!”

And on the very day, we still haven’t picked the restaurant. But I really like trying new restaurants. So how do I proceed?

I have a list called “Next” on which I bookmark a few restaurants where I’d like to go to, discuss it with my friends and agree on a venue. Pity that it’s not a baked-in feature! It’s often a subset of my default “Saved places” list, which is pretty much my wishlist.

Note: Since Foursquare relies on its users to get data, some places might not exist, information can be incomplete and so on. That’s where human curation comes in. For example, I regularly visit Le Fooding to discover brand new restaurants in Paris or when I need accurate information.


Similarly to Facebook, it is based on reciprocal connections: I can see where they go and they can see where I go. You can’t see where I checked in if we’re not Swarm friends. However, I only have my close friends on Swarm because it allows me to share much more. To me, locations and what you can attach to them are extremely valuable.

See where my close friends go

I love it when my friends say what they’re up to when they check-in, like: “I’m walking the dog and my hangover”. It may look silly but the sum of these check-ins and comments make my feed very intimate. I can know much more than on any other social network about my friends and their habits.

Some of them really like to brag about the cool places where they go and you haven’t been to. Ahem that’s maybe what I do as well. That’s what social networks are for eh?

“But I can also brag about my trip to [insert exotic country here] on Facebook!”

Absolutely. And I’m looking forward to scrolling through your perfect pictures 🏖 on Instagram. If you’re running after likes 👍, I advise you to stay on Facebook. Once again, Swarm is for close friends, not Facebook friends.

I ask what they think of a place. I save places that caught my attention in “Saved places”.

One of those rare moments when you manage to get different groups of friends together.

Just for fun

Yes, Swarm is a game 👾. And I’m earning virtual coins each time I’m checking in. And yes, those coins are completely useless. Wait! The latest release actually allows you to get perks against Swarm coins. In some places in the US though. OK, still useless for a while in Europe.

But the best thing about it is maybe the pleasure of seeing coins flowing on your screen when you check-in 🤔. Or maybe when I beat my friends on the leaderboard every week. Warning ⚠️, it becomes highly addictive at some point. I open Swarm 5–10 times a day.

A good week is usually above 1000 coins, at least for me.

Keep track of the places where I’ve been

“What was the name of this lovely shop on Södermalm already?”

My memory can terribly suck sometimes.

Since I check-in almost everywhere I go, I have a detailed log of my life. And the great thing is that you can search this log through a nice map but also words. Type “ramen” 🍜 and find this awesome Japanese restaurant where you’ve been 4 years ago. Type the name of a friend, see all the places where you hung out and remember those cool moments!

Still a lot of places I need to visit in Europe!

To be honest, this is the most geeky use I have of Swarm. But you know, I’m a proud geek. And for data and figures lovers like me, Swarm revamped its “My profile” screen to show information based on your check-ins very nicely.

Final thoughts

You can use both of them or only one of them. Foursquare appeals to more people than Swarm, since it gives immediate value (“Where should I go? Oh, there.”) but it will be used way less regularly. In my case, I open:

  • Swarm each time I want to check-in so I can also get updates on my friends (5–10 times a day)
  • Foursquare each time I’m looking for a venue (3–4 times a week) or when I’m preparing a trip to a city I don’t know

Big cities offer a lot to explore. You can pass by the greatest places without knowing. Sure you can live without it. But spending time with friends is one of the greatest things in life and spending it in the best places is even better.

This is why Foursquare / Swarm is still my favourite social network.

Thanks for reading! I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please press the 💚! And if you didn’t… well, that won’t prevent me from writing about tech products 🤓.

Kudos to my proofreaders Adrien, Maxime and Yann. You guys rock!

Thê-Minh Trinh

Written by

Head of Product @ HostnFly • President @ Ensimag Alumni

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