Foursquare, the location-based social networking service, is about to activate Push Notifications in the new version of its iPhone app, due shortly. I’ve been beta testing it out for the past week, and I’m happy to report that it works brilliantly. But be warned: Some of you will not like this idea.
Applications using Push have been rolling out over the past week. None so far have been bigger than the IM clients like AIM and Beejive, as instant messaging is an obvious use of Push messages. But location can work quite well too, as Foursquare is proving, but only for a certain kind of location app.
Foursquare is all about explicitly “checking-in” places. That is to say, when you go somewhere, you have to boot up the app, load the site or send a text to let it know you want to check-in there. It doesn’t do it automatically, even if you have the app open. Because of this, Push Notifications make sense, since they ping your followers when you check-in somewhere. And you really shouldn’t have to worry about privacy because you are the one checking in to a place, on purpose, to let the people you know — that you personally allowed to let follow you — see where you are.
Of course, regardless of that, there will be people who don’t like this concept. Some have been too liberal with who they allow to follow them. Others won’t like the idea of someone getting pinged every time they check in somewhere. I imagine it will be kind of like how some users at first didn’t like the Facebook News Feed because it made the information updates from your profile more obvious — even though all that information was already there for people to see.
Others won’t like the concept of their own phone getting pinged every time a friend checks in somewhere. But, of course, you can always turn the Push Notifications off. Right now, the service is wrestling with the idea of having them set to “on” as the default when you download the new version, co-founder Dennis Crowley tells us.
While that may sound like a bad idea to power users of the service who may follow dozens of people, Crowley notes that most users follow far fewer than that. And so if the average user only follows say, 10 people, the Push Notifications should be a welcome way to follow that number of people.
And you can toggle notifications on a per-user basis. Though in this version of the app (1.3), it’s somewhat of a pain to do because you have to click on a user’s profile, then click on the “Pings” tab, then flip the switch on “Checkin Messages.” In the future, Crowley hopes there will be an area of the app that contains a list of all your friends and you can easily go through that to toggle them on or off. Right now, you can do that on the Foursquare website on this page.
And it’s easy to turn all these notifications on or off. In the upper right side of the app there is a “Ping: On/Off” area. Clicking on that takes you to a Pings page that gives you a few options. One is to turn checkin messages off until the following morning (great for if you’re going to bed). Another allows you to turn them off until you turn them back on in the same menu.
Again, I understand that a lot of people won’t like this idea of being able to “stalk” your friends’ whereabout. But this is where social networking is heading. Just imagine being hungry around lunchtime or being in the mood for a happy hour drink, and getting pinged with a message showing you that a friend is doing one of those activities. These types of apps actually put the “social” — as in, real life social — in “social networking.”
Foursquare 1.3 with Push Notifications should be available soon in the App Store for free.