I’ve ignored foursquare and the other “social” (as in entertaining your friends) sites that have nothing to offer that is “social” (as in benefiting your community). But today foursquare may have moved into the realm of social benefit when they added an “I Voted 2010” badge. So I’m now a foursquare user.

Foursquare  lets a select community know where you are and when you got there, which is arguably a useful tool. That’s not much of a business so they added a game on top of it, but it still has very little value. Juxtaposing it twitter it would appear they are similar, where twitter fills a small need, broadcasting SMS messages and storing them. But twitter has proven to have a real world impact, from the overly hyped Iranian election communications to rapid communications for long tail groups. Twitter has become something far beyond its original construct and has true social value.

The same juxtaposition can be drawn  between MySpace and Facebook. MySpace locked the users into a profile-based structure that created some entertainment social behaviors, but the underlying corporate intent shone through and prevented it from breaking into a true social utility platform. Facebook on the other hand created a more open communications structure that invited unique uses. I think this even more than better technical details and aesthetics has led to Facebook winning the war.

The foursquare situation it a bit different as the social utility I’m pointing to was specifically created by the company itself, not an outgrowth of the users finding new ways to use the infrastructure. Is it the beginning of foursquare becoming a niche socially useful information conduit like twitter, or is it a fluke as the foursquare game gets old and people start to move on like they did with MySpace? It depends on if the voting badge was constructed by the people for the people of if it was a corporate decision that happens to have struck a cord with me.

I signed up today so I’m not really a user yet, but I am at least giving it a shot. We’ll see it I find it engaging and socially useful, or just engaging, or neither. Either way, as of today it deserves a look.

Update: After reading more about what foursquare is up to its clear they don’t have a structure that lets their users to make the most of it. They still get kudos for the vote 2010 badge but their other attempts at fostering community feel forced and corporate.