Eat.fi is hands down one the best designed Finnish webservices, if not the best. I love it and use it weekly, but can’t keep thinking it could be so much more.
Facebook just yesterday released its new API in its developer conference f8. This is really big news for everybody. Much bigger than we can yet grasp. With their new really(!) big vision, Facebook will now compete with Google in being the one who parses the web together for the rest of us. Google does it with hyperlinks. Facebook will try to do better job with the meta data from our social relationships. That aside for a moment, let’s look at what this announcement could mean for Eat.fi in the short term.
Just as with Yelp, who was Facebook’s partner at the f8 launch and have integrated their service to Facebook API, Eat.fi could gain similar benefits by simply integrating its service with the Facebook API. This would surely channel more traffic to Eat.fi as it would let people see who else likes the same restaurants (or even meals) that they do and let the users share the restaurant reviews more easily to their activity feed on their Facebook profile. The Facebook integration would help Eat.fi to get more traffic, but I believe they could do much more.
Not only is the Eat.fi website great, but Eat.fi’s iPhone app is one of the best I’ve seen in tying in the location. This proves that the team can design for mobile experience. Now, let’s come back to the ‘it could be much more’ part. I think Eat.fi would greatly benefit from designing some of the game mechanics into their service that Foursquare and Gowalle are build on.
Eat.fi already has something that Foursquare and Gowalla are only building – A location based platform that offers a real utility service. By mixing the utility with addictive game mechanics I could see the number of Eat.fi’s daily active users sky rocket.
Admittedly Eat.fi does not have the potential global scale that Foursquare and Gowalla has, but while it might be more time and resource consuming to expand into other regions, it would also be much harder for competitors to steal the markets they get to dominate. I can see Yelp being a very very distant threat if Eat.fi would start expanding into the markets, but first Yelp would have to enable Check-Ins themselves and secondly they would have to enter Europe. Neither of these happening yet. Conversely, Eat.fi could become the ‘European Yelp’ for restaurant reviews.
Let’s analyze where this would take Eat.fi. By getting much more daily active users through check-in mechanics, Eat.fi could legibly project much bigger advertising revenues. If the revenue potential would be there, they could raise capital for the expansion instead of developing the service with the same sluggish pace that they have so far. They have also been smart enough to build the platform so that it can be replicated into other locations if and when the time comes to expand. With a new addictive check-in feature at the core of the service, that time could come quite soon.