Google snuck in a bit of a bomb for Foursquare with the latest update to its Google Maps app for Android. Without so much as a blog post or promotional tweet, users started noticing that—Surprise!—version 6.3 would now offer an incentive to check-in to Latitude, GOOG’s “all but forgotten” attempt to hit the sweet spot of mobile/local/social. In fact, the incentives will be familiar to any of Foursquare’s 15 million users: You can now get points for checking-in.
Betabeat reached out to Foursquare cofounders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai to see if they were maybe experiencing a little deja-vu. After all, Facebook tried a similar lemme-just-muscle-my-way-in-here strategy with the now-defunct Facebook Places, which also let users check-in, back in 2010. Not to mention the fact that Google Latitude was the company’s succession plan after GOOG acquired Dodgeball from Mr. Crowley, only to let it atrophy.
Over email, Foursquare PR manager Erin Gleason said Foursquare’s plan was to stay heads down with their eyes on their own product.
“There are over 15 million people using foursquare, and they’ve checked in over 1.5 billion times. Far from concentrating on what others are doing, we’re 100% focused on continuing to build an amazing product that changes the way people experience the world around them.”
But if you check in to a venue on your Android phone right now, a leaderboard should pop up with a fancy animation to show you how many points you earned and how you’re doing against people in your circles, just like Foursquare. The updated app has fully-featured leaderboard that’ll let you sort high scores by week or all time, but for now it’ll only show up when you click the “show more” button after checking in — leading us to believe that Google may have let the feature out of the gates a bit early.
It seems Google hasn’t just copied Foursquare’s gamification elements, but its monetization strategy as well. Says The Verge:
“Updated Google Support pages for Latitude reveal that there will also be “status levels” (visitor, regular, VIP, and guru) that rate how often you visit a venue. It sounds like Google is going to be collaborating with businesses as well: there will be specific check-in deals and business owners will be able to customize the status level icons and names for customers at their stores.”
None of these features are live yet, which hopefully gives Foursquare enough time to come back swinging. After all, based on our leaderboard, Betabeat’s norms friends have only just caught on.