Akshay Patil logged his first check in back in the summer of 2005, as a rookie Google employee working across the hall from Dodgeball. At the time he found it solved multiple problems – from goe-locating to group messaging – that are currently the rage among mobile apps. “Maybe because it was novel at the time, but one of my favorite experiences in the location space was with Dodgeball, long ago. A group of us wanted to hang out, but all had various prior engagements in roughly the same neighborhood. Over the course of the night, we all started migrating to one of our favorite bars. We hadn’t explicitly set a plan, but through Dodgeball we were keeping tabs on where everyone was and knew where to go without all the one-on-one messaging and painful chain communication.”
Dennis Crowley left Google a few years later to being work on Foursquare. Patil stayed at Google, where he worked on building out real-time search, integrating sources like Twitter into the search giants results. Last week Patil announced he was leaving Google to become a platform evangelist at Foursquare. “I used to flatter myself by thinking I knew what people could and would do with this kind of data… I no longer suffer from such delusions. The amazing output we’ve seen from the developer community just reinforces how important having a platform is — letting people build stuff easily makes rich new experiences possible, all while making foursquare a more compelling product to use.”
There is going to be a period of adjustment as Patil moves into a different flavor of real-time data. “Google realtime search has a very different relationship to the space of information sharing than foursquare. Realtime search focuses on searching the world and answering ‘fresh’queries. On realtime search, you might track the latest developments from Fukushima, watch people brag about their March Madness bracket, or find confirmation that your city just had a power outage.In contrast, foursquare is much more personal – your location and social connections are at the heart of everything foursquare does. With foursquare, you can see where your friends are, find a great new gluten-free restaurant nearby, or share a recommendation about your favorite coffee shop.”
Patil’s biggest challenge will be giving developers the right set of incentives to build on top of Foursquare’s data, and convincing them there is no risk they will suffer the same fate as folks who invested heavily in the Twitter ecosystem. ”When I first started back in 2005, I was encouraged to spend some quality time browsing through the database and wrap my head around all the cool, and often secret, stuff Google was working on. It was so exciting to join a company working on such amazing stuff. I’ve only been at Foursquare a couple of days — and we don’t have a database, per se — but It’s definitely deja vu, all over again.”
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