Last week, Netease shut down its Foursquare clone Bafang, marking another player leaving the field after a string of similar retreats. Just two years ago, Chinese digital populace were still in a check-in mania to share their locations and claim mayor of places. And now our “where am I” passion along with some check-in services is long gone.

A Fever Never Gets Right

Wu Jun, CEO of Linxun, one LBS survivors of the year, said that “It’s not that LBS model is wrong, it’s just because too many competitors are copying each other and investments rushed in too quickly.”

What’s more, some non-LBS players also want a cut to either complement or diversify their offerings, in a way that incurred dents on the likes of Bafang’s business, with Weibo being one of the most terrifying rivals. When you can check in with Weibo to share locations with friends, why bother doing it with Bafang or other LBS services? VP of Morningside, Lai Xiaolin once said that instead of operating as an independent service, it makes more sense to incorporate LBS feature into other services, say Weibo. Currently a bunch of popular apps have done so, like Weibo and Dianping (Chinese Yelp), to name a few.

Interesting Enough?

“Even if very few of your friends check in regularly, the buzz they have made is annoying enough for you.” That’s what Amber Case, cofounder of Geoloqi (a LBS platform) thought. I bet you also got friends who would check in once a minute just for a special badge. And you just couldn’t care less about where they have been to and where they’re now.

LBS companies also found the catch. Just check-ins aren’t enough to attract and retain users within their offering. Some of them, like Qieke and Jiepang, started rewarding users with coupon upon their check-in at a certain venue.

Li Song, the founder of Digu (former LBS player now a Pinterest-clone) thought, to most users, the badges and coupons are STILL NOT INTERSTING enough. LBS products can only offer very limited coupons and promotion services. While according to Wang Yuquan, partner at Grand Galaxy Capital, coupon business apparently isn’t for small names, as it required a large army of offline BD and sales headcount, this could be a big burden on startups.

On the other hand, when coming to revenue streams, LBS services are in the dilemma of convincing local merchants of the effectiveness of LBS ads. They had a long way to go on that front, and there isn’t much time left for them to do so.

 Photo credit: Baidu Images

动点科技驻湾区记者. Charlie is an entrepreneur based in San Francisco and Hong Kong who calls herself the undefeated caffeine champion. You can reach her at charlie.sheng (at)

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