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Foursquare: Where Are Location Sites Taking Us?

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Peter Arkle for TIME

Where others see a city map, Ryan Long sees a game board. The game is Foursquare, but not the way you played it in grade school. On every bar, every restaurant, every office building is another space to be conquered: check in on the site enough times from a particular location and you're proclaimed mayor of that place. Long, 33, an insurance-settlement consultant in Overland Park, Kans., has already earned one of Foursquare's coveted Supermayor badges by becoming the mayor of 10 locations simultaneously. "It started as me wondering what the heck this [site] is, but now it's budded into an everyday thing and more of an addiction," Long says.

Social media has lit out for the territory. Since Foursquare launched in March 2009, some 2.5 million people have started playing. That's still small compared with other social-media sites, but the eagerness of Foursquare's users to broadcast their whereabouts has not gone unnoticed by the heavyweights. On Aug. 18, Facebook (500 million users) rolled out a feature that lets users attach a location to their status updates, and Twitter (somewhere north of 200 million users) in March began letting people include a place as part of their tweets.

What's driving the location craze? Social-media magnates still need to come up with ways to monetize their sites, which are free to users. Foursquare was one of the first companies to bet that users would be willing to share their location in exchange for discounts at the places they're checking in from...

From Time
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