I have to admit something. I’m a check-in fiend. Whenever I go somewhere new I open up Foursquare and check in. I do it for a few reasons: firstly I love to superficially announce to the world that I am both popular and that they should live their lives vicariously through my social media activity. Also the tips left by other customers can be really quite useful.

However in the past month the ‘check in’ game has been shaken up. We begin with Foursquare.

They’ve split their app in two. The first app, released earlier this month, is called ‘Swarm’.

According to Foursquare the role of Swarm is to:

We built Swarm because you’ve told us how often you still have to text your friends: “where are you?” and “what are you up to later?” We wanted to build a quick way for you to know these two things for all of your friends. With Swarm, you can easily see which of your friends are out nearby, figure out who is up for grabbing a drink later, and share what you’re up to (faster and more easily than you can in Foursquare today).

So Swarm is going to be the new social app from Foursquare. You’ll use it to see where your friends are, what they’re up to and where to meet them. It’s combining local geography with an overlay of social. The Foursquare app itself will essentially become your new ‘UrbanSpoon’. This is where you’ll find the places you want to eat that are suited to your taste. This will be based on your friends, experts and a whole range of different criteria. Foursquare aims to launch this app sometime in the next few months.

But what does that mean for the humbled check in? The gamification that made Foursquare so famous? Well it’s being scaled back…and that’s a good thing. When Foursquare was first released they needed something to push people to check-in. Remember that before Foursquare it was rare for a person to publicly announce via an app where they were. Foursquare needed to push people to do that. How would they do that? By giving them points every time they checked in at a new venue (or checking in at the same venue on multiple occasions would reward them with a mayorship) and savvy establishments would get in on this as well. It soon became common sight to see the ‘mayor’ of a local bar or fast food restaurant to receive some kind of perk. I remember going to a burger joint in Sydney and walking away with a free fries because I had checked in and became the mayor. My friends, who had bemoaned my pushing of Foursquare updates to Facebook and Twitter, instantly downloaded the app and checked in. The businesses loved Foursquare as it increased the social discovery of their establishments and the consumers loved it because they got rewards and points.

But what now? Do we still need that?

Not so much. Whilst I will be sad to see mayorships go (I had a few but admittedly allowed them to lapse) it’s time that the check in game matured. People are checking in more for reasons of social cohesion than bright lights and pretty colours. They’re checking in to notify their friends, leave tips or read reviews. There’s less reason to tempt them with games and other frivolous aspects.

But what else can we use to make people check in?

Well this is where Facebook is coming in. Why not free Wi-Fi?

Yes! Everyone’s favourite Big Brother social network has teamed up with wireless router manufacturer D-Link to offer free Wi-Fi at an establishment provided they check in through Facebook.

If this is pulled off correctly then this could shift the check in game.

Why? Because everyone loves free Wi-Fi and it’s easy as heck to check in on a Facebook page. The reward however is going to be for business owners. They’ll get some amazing insights into the people that are frequenting their store. Because of this information they’ll be able to tailor deals, menus, offerings and such based on this new data. This is what will help them create a loyal brand following. The people that check in will spread the word of this store in exchange for free wi-fi whilst the brands will now know everything they can about their customers.

So the check in game has matured to the point where businesses are encouraged to promote social sharing. In fact it’s now beneficial for businesses to promote check ins.

Do you check in? If so, tell us about your favourite app to use.