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Why Oink has already lost to Foursquare

Posted by on January 16th, 2012

Foursquare verses Oink
Oink is just a few months old, but it has already lost the war against Foursquare. Although publicly the two companies are not rivals, I believe it’s time for Team Milk to call it quits and move on to their next project. Foursquare is an unstoppable train on the quest for adding the geolocation mobile layer of our world, and no other company can compete.

Oink, the first product out of the startup incubator Milk, was launched in November last year to a highly anticipated audience. Oink is another geolocation mobile recommendation application. Oink’s differentiator is, you rate things, not places. So if you go to a restaurant, you can rate a particular dish, rather than the establishment itself.

Oink has a lot of good things going for it, including an very talented team lead by Kevin Rose and Daniel Burka, but I believe it’s time for the team to move on to their next project as Oink will never be able to compete with the juggernaut that is Foursquare. Here’s a breakdown of why I think it’s time to move on.

The Geolocation wars

When our children look back at this period of the Internet, it may well be known as the era of the geolocation wars. The geolocation wars began when two opposing rivals launched similar products at the South by South West conference, those two rivals were Foursquare and Gowalla. The battle raged between the two rivals for a while, both furiously adding value and users to their products. Facebook fleetingly entered the battle with it’s Places feature, but it was Foursquare that finally won the war when Facebook announced they were killing their Places feature and decided to acquire Gowalla in late 2011.

Enter Oink

Oink is a late entry to the geolocation wars. While technically, the product is more about rating items, rather than locations, the two services really go hand in hand.

Now here’s the problem

But the problem is, there really isn’t room for two services that rate either an item or a location. If you’re out in a new city, you are only going to pick one of the services to find a place to eat or a nightclub or bar to visit. Using two services is too complicated for the average person to make a decision.

The same goes for adding value to either of the services. When you find a bar you like, are you really going to add tips and photos to two services? At the minute you can rate an item in Oink and have that check you in on Foursquare, but then you lose the value of using Foursquare.

The differences between Foursquare and Oink

Foursquare has recently announced they have over 10 million users and over 1.5 billion check-ins. That means that Oink already has an inferior product because the aggregated data is so valuable to making high quality recommendations. Foursquare uses a much less intuitive way of surfacing good things to do a certain location through their lists and tips features. Oink really has nailed this aspect of their product because they make it incredibly easy to find the best item within that location. You can then compare items within different distances, whereas Foursquare is much more of a Yelp type experience, where tips are just written notes left by other users. But you have to ask yourself the question, how long before Foursquare adds a feature similar to Oinks item ranking?

One of the major differences between the two services are their respective business moats. By a moat I mean, what is protecting the company from rivals? At the minute, Oink’s moat consists of a beautifully designed application, a talented team and a couple of unique features they have brought to the geolocation table. Unfortunately, this isn’t a very big moat. Foursquare on the other hand have a very large moat in their huge user numbers and check-in data.

To conclude…

Oink and Foursquare share a common goal. To become a utility application that can make insightful recommendations to the user based upon their past actions, likes, friends activity and location. Foursquare have already made significant progress in reaching this goal by acquiring a huge data set and building their Explore and Radar features both in the mobile apps and on the web. I predict that before the end of 2012, Team Milk will decide to cut their loses and move onto their next project.

Philip Brown

Hey, I'm Philip Brown, a designer and developer from Durham, England. I create websites and web based applications from the ground up. In 2011 I founded a company called Yellow Flag. If you want to find out more about me, you can follow me on Twitter or Google Plus.