I'm sure the foursquare team has their strategy well in hand after the announcement of Facebook places and maybe this is way off base anyway, but I was suprised to see little real press analysis on what paths they might take (instead is was mainly doom and gloom - (TNW, CNN)). But it seems to me there are clear paths and one of the them could be to yank the steering wheel to one side and "Go Public" (not in the IPO sense - in the social network model sense!).
To explain this, one of the things that always struck me as the *key* difference between twitter and facebook is: twitter is public broadcast, facebook is group narrowcast. I.e. twitter has asymmetric relations, facebooks are symmetric.
So facebook (although there is a public mode) requires both parties to friend.
This makes twitter and facebook fundamentally different - and I think means that twitter can and will continue to grow very strongly. Because of the type of data shared on facebook it's simply difficult for them to push asymetric relationships.
On location I could see the same thing happening. The "normal" way of thinking about location is "I share with my friends" - symmetric relationships. This also makes sense for security in some sense.
So it seems to me that if foursquare is able to push it's asymetric relationships - i.e. anybody can follow anyone for location information:
- it would make a big change to the service
- but it would give it a much different utility to facebook.
broadcasting location publically has the chance to create chance meetings, to interact with locations / brands in a way narrowcasting to friends doesn't. Also facebook is unlikely to open the privacy settings much (or make the defaults public) because it is already embroilled in various privacy issues.
An example would be, people checking into a bar in Barcelona - they might post on facebook so their friends know, but they might also post on foursquare so "everybody" knows (basically this is equivalent to posting "I'm at Harry's Bar in Barcelona" on Twitter). Facebook places may allow you to do this also but the focus is different and theres a big risk of confusion between public and private settings.
Basically a foursquare which focused on a twitter like public broadcast of location could provide a much different platform to facebook places and become the basis of different types of location aware services. You may post there "less" but you'll post there when there is some real utility to doing so like meeting new people in a bar, collecting coupons & points, getting timely information etc.