Foursquare is about to radically change the way you use it faltering service—or at least, that's what it hopes to do with a forthcoming app called Swarm. The new app will be centered around a more general idea of where your friends are, rather than a specific spot on a map.
Rather than announce Swarm itself, Foursquare handed the task of explaining the service to The Verge's editorial team, which has a lengthy feature about the new product. Swarm will launch next month and exist alongside the existing Foursquare application. Foursquare will remain the check-in service you know, but the "social discovery" of actually finding things to do and people to do it with, will migrate over to Swarm.
There's a core problem with Foursquare that might be a lot of the reason that you don't use it: The core activity is checking in to a specific location, rather than seeing what everyone else is up to in a general area. Whereas you open Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social apps, even when you aren't about to post something, you probably never open Foursquare unless it's to check in.
Swarm removes the need to check in to a specific spot with passive awareness of where you are, which it broadcasts to your network of friends. If you don't want to check in to a spot, you can just have the app broadcast the general area or neighborhood you're in. So rather than looking down at your phone and seeing a bunch of check-ins that happened hours ago, you'll be able to see who's around you at all times. (And, of course, you'll still be able to check in to the bar, if that's what you really want to do.,)
OK, so this does introduce an extra element of creepiness to the mix, although, from what we can tell, freaking out would only be partially justified. Your phone always knows where you are whether or not an app is actually reminding you of this fact. Furthermore, the app isn't actually broadcasting your location in a way where everybody knows exactly where you are. Although, your co-workers might start to wonder why you've been spending three nights a week three neighborhoods away from home.
This post originally stated that Foursquare was "ditching" check-ins. It's been updated to reflect the fact that the new Swarm app broadcasts general location without checking you into a specific spot. The new app will continue to have check ins. We regret the error.