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Foursquare.com Invades Wellington

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

While the Four Square grocery store and Mr. Four Square are one of New Zealand's most iconic identities, a new internet based Foursquare has just landed in Wellington.    Foursquare.com is 50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.

While Twitter has been the social media darling on 2009, the pundits are already voting on their choice for 2010 and among the Web's early adopter set, the answer is nearly unanimous: Foursquare.  The company has raised funds, released business services and appears ready to take off like only a dot.com can!

Foursquare is a location-based mobile start-up that serves a single purpose, to let an individual share his or her location with a group of friends. But it is also more than that as it is also a virtual game in which participants earn badges for checking in at various locations.  Those participants that check in most can become a venue's "mayor." Early adopters say that this is as addictive as Twitter, Facebook or checking your e-mail on a BlackBerry.

Foursquare was limited to a couple of cities for the first several months of its existence.  However, Foursquare is now in a period of rapid expansion around the globe. Fresh of its launch of 15 European cities, today the site has rolled out support for 50, yes 50, new cities including Wellington, New Zealand.

Foursquare awards users with points and merit badges for ‘checking in’ at a variety of locations. Badges are awarded for completing specific activities, like venturing outside of the city limits. Most of the badges are ambiguously named and the criteria for unlocking them is a mystery; figuring out how to earn the badges is part of the Foursquare world.  All the badges offer are bragging rights but answering questions on Yahoo Answers or getting one million followers on Twitter are examples of huge successes that are based on little more than bragging rights.

When you've got more checkins than anyone else at a particular place, you are deemed "The Mayor" of that place.  But if someone else comes along and checks in more times than  you, they can steal the "Mayor" title from you. 

Foursquare operates with a variety of options: an iPhone app, an Android app and a mobile-web site for devices like the Blackberry or Treo.  So there are wide range of ways to play.

Foursquare has had some interesting success in San Francisco, California where the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) in San Francisco made history as the first transit agency to partner with Foursquare. BART commuters are able to unlock a BART-themed badge and also become eligible for $25 in promotional tickets that will be awarded randomly to Foursquare users who check-in at stations during the months of November, December, and January.

Will the catch on in Wellington?  Perhaps Mr. Four Square will be reborn as a 21st century game?  If you join in the fun, let us know what you think!

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