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Yelp ups ante on Foursquare check-ins

Last week, Yelp took a couple of steps to catch up with Foursquare, the either pointlessly irritating or strangely compelling social-media game that has users "check in" to shops, restaurants, bars and other establishments.


As Yelp's blog post explains, the site's just-updated iPhone application (warning: link opens iTunes if installed) offers extra rewards for people who use it to check into enough locations.

(Curious how long Apple's App Store can take to okay a name-brand company's upgrade to an already-approved program? Yelp wrote on June 4 that it had submitted this update. Have an Android smartphone? Yelp says it's bringing these features to its Android program next.)

First, if you check into enough places of the same kind on Yelp's iPhone app, you can earn virtual badges attesting to your love of sushi or pizza or airports or whatever. And if you visit the same place more often than other Yelpers, you'll earn the honorary title of "Duke" or "Duchess." Yelp's iPhone program will then let you share these glad tidings with Twitter followers or Facebook friends.

All those features duplicate Foursquare's badges and "mayorships" so closely that TechCrunch's MG Siegler called this display of mimicry "a little pathetic."

Yelp does, however, offer an extra wrinkle: If you become the Duke or Duchess of enough places in one neighborhood, it will dub you the "Baron" of that area. And the social butterfly who collects the most "Dukedoms" in a city gets to be crowned "King."

I don't know that I like all this.

Setting aside the issue of whether Yelp's titles of nobility sound vaguely un-American, having these different ranks seems to invite Yelp to add others to deepen the competition. How long until Yelp users vie to become earls, viscounts, princes, archdukes, crown princes and emperors?

Then there's the bigger issue of having to keep score on multiple social networks. If you're the Foursquare mayor of the corner bar, should you fire up the Yelp app to become Duke of the place? Should you then check in on the competing service Gowalla to reinforce your virtual rank? (Disclosure: The Post's Going Out Guide uses Gowalla to suggest itineraries around town.) And what about if Facebook releases its own rumored check-in feature?

I know that many of you don't care for any of these check-in games, but among those who do: How much personal bandwidth do you think we all have for competing forms of competitive social life?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 14, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Location awareness , Privacy , Social media  
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I like Foursquare, but am seeing more Checked In - does that on aggregate all the locale-based social networks? It seems to.
I don't want a badge or 'royal' title but it seems like harmless fun for those who do. What the heck. Knock yourselves out.
I like to see if my friends or network peeps are arriving or leaving when I am, to say hello. I met up with a freelance contractor this way, by chance, and had a nice F2F mini-meeting. All upside. Otherwise would have walked right past him...
My friends and I can find each other more easily on weekends, fewer texts flying.

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 14, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Rob: Just how popular are these tools, really? Most of the people I know who used Foursquare stopped abruptly in the past few months because of security concerns (sites like, etc., have some funny -- and some very scary -- information about this).

I was under the impression that location identification programs were waning in popularity, so Yelp seems a little too late to the party.

Am I mistaken? Are the numbers of people checking in actually growing? If so, my crowd has become tragically un-hip...

Posted by: CJH2 | June 14, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

@CJH2: Foursquare's growth does not seem to be slowing down--they say they're closing in on a million check-ins a day. But that doesn't exclude Foursquare users being more selective in sharing their check-ins. For example, my own sense is that fewer people are broadcasting them to Twitter, which I think is smart on both privacy and politeness grounds. (I don't even share my Foursquare check-ins on Facebook, but I'm also a lot picker about who I will accept as a Foursquare friend.)

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | June 14, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

IMHO Yelp has the advantage with check ins. Yelp has established an audience the checkins are just a little extra for the Yelp following. Everywhere you look Four Square clones are popping up like mushrooms. Yahoo bought a Four Square clone cheaper than they would have paid for FourSquare called Also I just demoed a Chinese clone All similar functionality and everything looks pretty much the same. Looking forward to see the Face Book Four Square clone. This check in fad can climb. Although local search can only get bigger.

Posted by: GuiasLocal | June 18, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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