NEW YORK — In the world of foursquare, life can be a lot like a video game: earning points and badges for places you visit and engaging in a nonphysical sort of "King of the Mountain" competition to be "mayor," or the most frequent visitor to a particular location.

Dennis Crowley, co-founder of foursquare, an online hyperlocal social service that mixes users’ current "check-in" locations and tips with gaming aspects, described the service as "a lot like Twitter but with location."

And while that concept has been carried by a couple of other online sites, what makes foursquare different is that "we’re trying to turn life into a game," Crowley said during a Wednesday presentation at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York.

Referencing a Nike mobile device that helps users track their running performance and a photo of a badge-covered Eagle Scout, Crowley said foursquare can actually inspire some users to change their behavior by offering incentives to explore their neighborhoods and cities.

For example, someone who seeks to earn a particular badge or become a "mayor" may visit

Inman News tech columnist Gahlord Dewald has noted that foursquare can be useful for business travel and has other business potential, too — even if you’re not interested in the "game" part of the service. …CONTINUED

Crowley said he believes advertisers will be drawn to the service, as companies could offer promotions to individuals or groups of foursquare users, for example.

User data from the site can be presented in creative ways — such as heat maps based on a user’s foursquare "check-ins" or logged visits to places, and such data, Crowley said, could be useful for businesses to reach members of a specific demographic profile in hyperlocal areas, for example.

Crowley said a goal is to develop stats almost like a baseball card, based on user date.

Some sample user data that the site displayed after Crowley’s talk today:

  • Sharon H. in Minnesapolis, Minn., "became the mayor of Chicago-Lake Liquors."
  • Martin N. in Hoorn, Netherlands, "unlocked the ‘Super Mayor’ badge" (awarded to those who become "mayor" of more than 10 locations).
  • Amin T. in Toronto, Ontario, wrote a tip: "Drop by and shoot some hoops in the office … yeah, that’s right."
  • And Gerry M. in Makati City recommended the gyros at Cafe Mediterranean — which has a vegetarian option.

Crowley noted that he found dozens of foursquare users who were also checked into the conference site’s hotel — the Marriott Marquis — and he even got a tip about where to go to grab a bite inside the hotel.

He said the site, which received about $1 million in financing, just broke 250,000 users.


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