The first time you use Foursquare to check in to a location you'll earn a Newbie badge. This is just one of several badges in Foursquare. It's not hard to figure out how to earn some of the badges. For example, visit the same spot several times in a month and you'll earn the Local badge. But others may be more of a challenge. The founders plan to add more badges to the service over time and solicit user suggestions.
One of the ways you earn badges is by visiting locations that have been tagged with specific traits. Let's say you visit several places in your town that are known to be popular with fraternity members -- you may earn yourself the Animal House badge. The founders depend upon the input of the community to tag locations accurately. It's possible that a location's features could change over time -- if it does you may earn a different badge after a few visits.
Users can also submit tips and notes about locations. Let's say you've decided to visit your favorite burger joint. You happen to know their mushroom bacon burger is amazing. You can check in using Foursquare and add in a tip to let others know about your favorite burger.
Since users submit the tips, you could end up seeing all sorts of information about different locations. It doesn't all have to be positive either. If you think the music a certain club plays is six months behind the times, you can pop into Foursquare and share your thoughts. The service has the potential to be both a social networking application and a review application.
The founders of Foursquare hope to form partnerships with various restaurants, clubs and other sites to offer special benefits to Foursquare members. For example, a restaurant might offer up a free appetizer to its Foursquare mayor. One potential obstacle for this approach is that it would be easy to game the system. While the Foursquare app on the iPhone and Android platforms can use the GPS receiver in phones to search for nearby locations, you don't have to rely on GPS to check in. You could be sitting at home while remotely checking in to locations around the city. If restaurants and other companies hand out real rewards to Foursquare members, you can expect some people will cheat.