Photo: Good The Bad And The Ugly
Foursquare has a spam problem on Twitter, and its system lacks any “true accountability” according to Gowalla investor Chris Sacca, who emailed us this weekend after disputing the conclusion of a post on our site.On Saturday, we noted that the people we follow on Twitter were producing a ton of Foursquare links from places they were checking in during the South By Southwest conference. Gowalla, meanwhile, was M.I.A. on Twitter that day. This led us to conclude that Foursquare was winning at least one battle between the two companies.
Gowalla and Foursquare, nearly identical startups, are duking it out to become the leading service for people to “check-in” to bars, hotels, restaurants, whatever, and let their friends know where they’re hanging out. We suspect that this business will play out the way other Internet sectors have, with one company emerging as the clear leader and the other becoming irrelevant. Thus, the early perception as to which company is winning is critical.
Our post concluding that Foursquare was winning in Austin provoked a quick response. The “article misses the mark completely” and our “data set is laughable” says Chris. He says Foursquare looks bigger on Twitter because its feed is filled with “check-in spam.”
According to Chris, Foursquare spams Twitter a few ways:
- “Publishing to Twitter is the default behaviour in Foursquare…So counting 4sq’s pushes to Twitter only really measures the aggressiveness of their app, not its true reach.”
- “Spam, and their write API definitely skew their overall checkin count”
- “This is compounded by Foursquare’s refusal to build any true accountability into their checkin system. You can essentially check yourself in wherever you’d like, regardless of where you actually happen to be.”
Foursquare’s founder Dennis Crowley immediately rebutted these spam assertions and defended the user-driven check-ins:
“what spamming problem? there’s a few fake checkins here and there but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s constantly 5-6 venues with 100+ checkins. people down here [SXSW] chosing where to go not based on party schedule but venues are trending on 4sq.
…we ll always let people checkin wherever they want… people are often more accurate than gps :)”
As far as who’s really winning the check-in war at SXSW, Chris told us to look at Vicarious.ly, where check-ins from both Foursquare and Gowalla are tracked. On that site, it appears Foursquare and Gowalla are producing equal numbers of check-ins.
So who will win the Foursquare-Gowalla battle to the death? Stay tuned…