Over the weekend, Foursquare scored a major coup via a new partnership with American Eagle: they got their name and logo plastered all over Times Square. The first story I saw on the subject was on Mashable, where blogger Samuel Axon noted,
“It seems like just a short time ago that these location services were only used by a few hardcore web tech geeks. Now they’re so mainstream that they’re taking up a chunk of the New York skyline.”
Foursquare has just over three million users and you need a smartphone to use it. It is far, far from “mainstream”. And the article in Mashable feels like something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately – mistaking a brand using a niche and emerging web service (the “shiny object” in the title of this post) as a way of positioning themselves as cool and hep, for some sort of validation of something as “mainstream”.
From where I sit, Foursquare and other location-based applications will be mainstream when they have 500 million users globally. Even Twitter, with 87% of American consumers aware of it but only 7% using it, is not mainstream (see: Facebook, Google).