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Foursquare reinvents itself, but will the overhaul pay off?

Matt Kapko | Aug. 25, 2014
Foursquare CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley has long lamented the need to make users do much more than what's necessary. Foursquare has always asked a lot of its users, though, even if that's because the scope and ambition for a personally curated social discovery app requires it.

The poor menu placement is bad enough, but now I can't even figure out how to create new lists or add places to my existing ones. On a recent road trip to California's Mendocino coast, I resorted to using Foursquare on my laptop to get a better view and understanding of my lists. I found it too cumbersome to maneuver through my lists and the lists of others on the app.

This may be nitpicking, but lists are a great way to plan trips and more specifically map out plans as they're unfolding. Changes of this kind may not be embraced by users like me, but I understand why Foursquare is splitting its business in two and what the company is trying to become.

Setting Sights on Local Search and Discovery

The check-in feature has probably run its course or at least hit its peak at this point with more than 6 billion check-ins on the books. The problem for Foursquare and fans of check-ins is that there's really no money to be made there. By splintering that gamification feature off and packaging it into Swarm, Foursquare can now focus on the big prize: local search and discovery.

The company has always been competing against Yelp, Google and others in this field but has consistently been the third or alternative option among the masses. Despite its deep location database of more than 65 million venues, Foursquare has routinely been considered an app for check-ins first and foremost.

Browsing and discovering nearby places was an added bonus of sorts that now takes center stage in the new app. Indeed, even the tagline blaring across the top of Foursquare reads: "Find a place."

Tastes and Tips

Because the new Foursquare represents such a dramatic change, you are given a brief preview of the new features once you update to the latest version. "Foursquare is always on the lookout for the spots you'll like," the company writes in the walk-through.

To help Foursquare in that goal, the app encourages you to create or select among thousands of specific tastes including things like "pour over coffee," "bourbon," "craft beer" or "hole in the wall places." Once those tastes are added to your profile, Foursquare will automatically surface nearby places that might pique your interest.

I haven't noticed any major improvements as a result of this, but Foursquare says more than 15 million tastes were adding to profiles in less than 24 hours of the app's release.

As tastes gain momentum, Foursquare is also elevating the importance of tips. Automated discovery and recommendations are being pulled from more than 55 million tips in Foursquare's database. The company's partnerships with more than 50 media companies has already provided more than 15,000 of those tips.


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