The “check-in” will die this year, writes entrepreneur Mark Watkins in ReadWriteWeb. Chris Dixon, an investor in the archetypal check-in service Foursquare, disagrees.Dixon is right: check-ins are here to stay. But they’re a feature, not a company.
Watkins basically feels that the value of check-ins is low: it’s useful for things like serendipity, remembering where you’ve been, etc. and people don’t really care about that. Who knows? Who would have guessed in 2006 that people would like reading and writing 140 character updates?
Some of the arguments don’t seem very sound: Watkins writes that check-ins are useful for personal branding (sure), but that it’s only the digerati who care about that. Really? It seems to us that the vast majority of activity on social networks is posing and posturing. Remember MySpace? Taken a look lately at highly-customisable Tumblr, which is where teens post pictures of themselves and the artists they love all day?
Even on Facebook, which is less susceptible to this, everyone chooses their profile picture and status updates carefully. They might not call it “personal branding” or have heard the term, but that’s what they’re doing. Bragging about hanging out at a cool place really work across all demographics.
Watkins also says that the serendipity that comes with check-ins (“Hey! So-and-so isn’t far from here, why not say hi!”) is only useful in big cities. Guess that makes Foursquare useful only for the two billion people who live in cities and have phones. Small market.
Watkins is writing within the context of location-based services but we’ve actually seen check-ins in a much broader context.
There are people check-ins (Hashable), website check-ins (Meebo), media check-ins (Get Glue)… Any one of those services might fizz out but the enthusiasm tells us there’s something there.
Here’s the important question: what is a check-in? A check-in is basically: 1- telling an app you’re doing something and 2- sharing that with your friends. (Yes, that means Facebook’s “Like” button is basically a check-in button.)
There is no way that’s not a useful feature within the context of a compelling product.
But it’s just that: a feature.
Which is what Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley has been saying all along: Foursquare popularised the check-in, but it was never about the check-in, it’s about what happens after people check-in.
It’s like other features on websites that have become commonplace lately, like “share” and a “news feed.” These are compelling ways for people to interact with a service! Some websites will use them well, and others won’t. Some websites will feature them prominently and others won’t.
The check-in is alive and well.