Foursquare’s New Swarm Update Emphasizes Tracking Past Visits

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Foursquare is releasing a major update to its Swarm mobile app this morning, moving its focus away from head-to-head competition and real-time check-ins, with a more streamlined way to revisit personal moments from the past.

Foursquare’s Swarm 5.0 mobile app puts an even bigger focus on “lifelogging,” which emphasizes users’ private check-in histories with charts and searchable maps. In addition to an updated map design, which includes new animations that drop pins onto the map with each check-in, Swarm 5.0 features an updated profile where users can see total lifetime check-ins, how many unique places they’ve visited, and the number of categories they’ve checked into.

“Swarm 5.0 was designed to help users remember everywhere by creating a lifelog of their adventures,” says Marissa Chacko, Foursquare’s director of consumer products. “One feature I’m confident new and existing users alike will love is our check-in map, which acts as a personalized visual representation of all the places they’ve been.”

Over the past year, Chacko says she and her team have spent a lot of time talking to users about the value that Foursquare’s Swarm app brings to their lives. Users consistently say the main reason they use the app is to keep track of the places they’ve been—both at home and around the world. Chacko says many of the updates rolled out in Swarm 5.0 are a direct reflections of those learnings, combined with external factors like the role that technology now plays in people’s lives.

“Back in February I was observing a research session with a guy we’ll call Joe in New York City. He’d been using Swarm for years and was looking at his check-in map for the first time. After panning around the globe, Joe jumped to a few check-in’s in Toronto and started reminiscing about a hockey game he went to with his now wife years ago,” she says. “It was magic seeing Joe’s face light up as he remembered the experience. That’s the value of lifelogging to me, being able to revisit those personal moments.”

Outside of personal user behaviors, external factors also came into play as Foursquare decided which features to include in its latest app update. Chacko sees more people now wanting to stay in the moment, rather than missing out on real world experiences with their eyes glued to their smartphones.

“We want you to check-in so you can remember that moment and then put your phone away,” Chacko says.

In the eight years since Foursquare first launched, in March 2009, Chacko says she’s noticed an evolution in the role that check-in apps play in people’s lives. Mobile users want less direct competition now, preferring to challenge themselves rather than compete in head-to-head battles with their friends or strangers nearby.

“A user recently tweeted to me that he just hit 36,000 check-in’s, which is the highest I’ve ever seen. Yet after looking at his map he felt like he still had so many more places to go — despite what looked like an amazing trip across Russia and Mongolia on the Trans Siberian Railroad,” Chacko says.

Although future updates to Foursquare’s Swarm app will likely involve improved map functionality and better ways to make personal insights more intriguing, Chacko also says the company is looking into new ways to work with augmented reality and other technologies, like digital assistants.

“In terms of how this ladders up to the overall company’s direction, launching Swarm 5.0 further solidifies Foursquare’s status as the leader in location intelligence and as a company always on the cutting edge of innovation,” she says. “The launch of Swarm 5.0 is a continuation of that momentum.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.