Foursquare

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For the ball game, see four square. For other uses, see Four square (disambiguation).
Foursquare Labs, Inc.
Foursquare2014.svg
Type Private
Founded New York City, New York, USA
Headquarters New York City, New York, United States
Area served Worldwide
Founder(s) Dennis Crowley
Naveen Selvadurai
Key people

Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder, CEO

Naveen Selvadurai, Co-Founder
Employees Over 170
Slogan(s) Foursquare helps you find places you’ll love, anywhere in the world.
Website foursquare.com
Alexa rank negative increase 635 (October 2014)[1]
Type of site Local search, recommender system
Registration Required
Users 45 million[2]
Available in English, German, French, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Japanese, Turkish
Launched March 11, 2009
Current status Active

Foursquare is a local search and discovery service mobile app which provides a personalised local search experience for its users. By taking into account the places a user goes, the things they have told the app that they like, and the other users whose advice they trust, Foursquare aims to provide highly personalised recommendations of the best places to go around a user's current location.

The service was created in late 2008 and launched in 2009[3] by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai. Crowley had previously founded the similar project Dodgeball as his graduate thesis project in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. Google bought Dodgeball in 2005 and shut it down in 2009, replacing it with Google Latitude. Dodgeball user interactions were based on SMS technology, rather than an application.[4] Foursquare was the second iteration of that same idea, that people can use mobile devices to interact with their environment. Foursquare was Dodgeball reimagined to take advantage of the new smartphones, like the iPhone, which had built in GPS to better detect a users location.

Until late July 2014, Foursquare featured a social networking layer that enabled a user to share their location with friends, via the "check in" - a user would manually tell the application when they were at a particular location using a mobile website, text messaging, or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby.[5] In May 2014, the company launched Swarm, a companion app to Foursquare, that reimagined the social networking and location sharing aspects of the service as a separate application. On August 7, 2014 the company launched Foursquare 8.0, the completely new version of the service which finally removed the check in and location sharing entirely, to focus entirely on local search.

As of December 2013, Foursquare had 45M registered users.[6] Male and female users are equally represented and also 50 percent of users are outside the US.[7] Support for French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese was added in February 2011. Support for Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Thai was added in September 2011.[8] Support for Turkish was added in June 2012.[9]

Features[edit]

Foursquare 8.0 shows personalised recommendations of places to go around the user's current location

On August 7, 2014, Foursquare 8.0 was launched for iOS and Android devices. The new app has changed the focus of the app to being primarily a local search and discovery tool, where users can "follow" others to receive local recommendations from them.

Local search and recommendations[edit]

Foursquare lets the user search for restaurants, nightlife spots, shops and other places of interest in their surrounding area. It is also possible to search other areas by entering the name of a remote location. The app displays personalised recommendations based on the time of day, displaying breakfast places in the morning, dinner places in the evening etc. Recommendations are personalised based on a number of factors including a users check-in history, their "Tastes" and their venue Ratings. The app also learns about the places they like to go as they move through the world and uses this to personalise their experience.

Tips and expertise[edit]

Foursquare eschews the traditional concept of letting users leave long-form reviews, and instead encourages the writing of "Tips" - short messages about a location which let other users know what is good (or bad) there. Tips are strictly limited to 200 characters in length, but can include a URL to link to an external site with more information, and can optionally include a photo. Tips can also be set to expire after a certain amount of time, or on a specific date, which can be useful for leaving Tips about events or promotions at a venue that will end soon.

Users have the ability to 'Like' tips left by other users, which makes those tips more prominent. Users can also save tips left by other users onto their own to do list, ensuring that the user is reminded about them when they are nearby, and can "follow" any other user or brand to increase the prominence of that user's tips when they are navigating Foursquare. As a reward for leaving quality tips, a user can also earn "expertise" in a particular location (e.g. a neighbourhood or city) or category (e.g. Italian restaurants). Expertise is awarded based on the number and quality of tips a user writes, a tip's quality being measured based on the number of views, saves and "likes" it receives from other users. When a user earns expertise, their tips are made more prominent and a label indicating their expertise is added beneath relevant tips.

Tastes[edit]

"Tastes" let a user personalise their search experience

Foursquare has a defined list of "tastes" in particular food items, styles of cuisine or environmental aspects, which users may add to their profiles to let the service know what they like. New users are presented with a list of words and phrases describing recognized tastes and they may select the ones that appeal to them. Users can change their tastes at any time, and are free to add and remove items from their profile. Foursquare uses natural language processing to match a user's tastes with the tips at nearby venues that mention them. It is then able to recommend nearby places to the user that match their tastes.

Location detection[edit]

Foursquare 8.0 uses its own proprietary technology called "Pilgrim" to automatically detect a user's location. Foursquare’s "Pilgrim" is able to accurately guess a users current location by comparing historical check-in data (previous users tacitly stating "I am here") with a combination of signals such as a users current GPS signal, cell tower triangulation, cellular signal strength and surrounding wifi signals. In this way Foursquare can know a users location without them needing to "check in".[10]

Foursquare 8.0 features a 'Here' tab that lets the user see Tips about their current location. "Pilgrim" will attempt to guess the current location and the user is able to correct the selection it wrong. The tab displays information about the current venue, and includes a 'Check-in' button. Tapping the button lets the user check in with Swarm, before returning them to Foursquare. If they do not have the app installed, tapping the button opens a page where they can download it.

Foursquare 8.0 also uses "Pilgrim" to track a user's location in the background. This enables the app to send the user push notifications of things that they might find interesting around their current location. It also uses this ability to learn about the kinds of places a user likes, based on when and how often they visit different venues. It then uses this data to improve a user's recommendations, and to gauge the popularity of a venue.

Ratings[edit]

In addition to leaving Tips, Foursquare 8.0 also lets users rate venues by answering a series of questions. The questions are designed to help Foursquare understand how people feel about a place, including such questions as whether or not a user likes it, how trendy it is, its cleanliness, how noisy it is. It also uses these questions to fill out missing venue information such as asking whether the venue takes credit cards, or whether it has outdoor seating.

Foursquare gives each venue a numeric score between 0.1 and 10 to indicate its general popularity when compared to other venues. Scores are calculated automatically factoring in check-in data, Tips and Ratings.

Lists[edit]

Users can add venues to a personal "to do" list, and to curated lists with any criteria. With the launch of Foursquare 8.0, adding venues to lists other than a to-do list was only possible on the website, but writing in August 2014, Foursquare chief Dennis Crowley has assured users that lists would return "in a big way" in the "soonish" future.[11]

Former features[edit]

Earlier versions of Foursquare supported check-ins and location sharing, but as of Foursquare 8.0, these were moved to the service's sibling App, Swarm. Foursquare 8.0 never shares a user's location with their followers.

In previous versions of Foursquare, if a user had checked into a venue on more days than anyone else in the past 60 days, then they would be crowned "Mayor" of that venue. Someone else could then earn the title by checking in more times than the previous mayor. This way users could vie for mayorships at particular venues by checking in more often than other users in the area, and businesses could also offer rewards for users who were the Mayor (such as food and drink discounts). As the services grew it became increasingly difficult to compete for mayorships in high-density areas where the service was popular. The mayorship feature was retired from Foursquare in version 8.0 and reimplemented in Swarm, where users instead compete with friends for mayorships of venues, rather than against all other users of the service.[12]

Badges were earned by checking into various venues. There were a handful of introductory badges that were earned as milestones in usage. Some badges were tied to venue "tags" and the badge earned depends on the tags applied to the venue.[13] Other badges were specific to a city, venue, event, or date. In September 2010 badges began to be awarded for completing tasks as well as checking in.[14] On October 22, 2010, astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock unlocked the NASA Explorer badge by checking into Foursquare from the International Space Station.[15][16] In Foursquare 8.0, badges were retired, which upset some existing users.[12]

Earlier versions of the app also used a "points" system, users receiving a numerical score for each check-in, with over 100 bonuses, such as being first among friends to check into a place, or becoming the venue's mayor. Users could check their standing against friends on a leaderboard within the app. In Foursquare 8.0 points and leaderboards were retired.[17]

Swarm[edit]

Main article: Swarm (app)

In May 2014, the company launched Swarm, a companion app to Foursquare 8.0, that reimagined the social networking and location sharing aspects of the service as a separate application. Swarm lets the user share their location with friends, and see where their friends are. It includes a feature called 'Neighbourhood Sharing' that ambiently shares a user's general location (neighbourhood or city). The user can also check in to a venue to pin-point their location more specifically. Swarm works together with Foursquare 8.0 to improve a user's recommendations - a user's Swarm check-ins help Foursquare understand the kinds of places they like to go. Data from Swarm is also included in Foursquare 8.0, such as displaying which other Swarm friend's have checked in to a venue.

Other features[edit]

Foursquare for business[edit]

Foursquare for Business is a suite of tools for businesses to manage their listing on the service. Businesses can 'Claim' their listing which gives them access to free tools that lets them update their business information (address, phone number etc.), add photos and tips, create 'Specials' and see visitor statistics. Claiming a venue can be done for free via mail which takes several weeks to process, or instantly with a credit card for a fee. In January 2013, Foursquare released 'Foursquare for Business', a mobile app that lets businesses manage their listing on Foursquare from their iOS device.[18]

Foursquare API[edit]

Foursquare features a developer API that's lets 3rd-party applications make use of Foursquare's location data. In March 2013, the Foursquare API had 40,000 registered developers. The API powers search in a wide range of third-party apps, including Evernote, Uber, Flickr and Jawbone.[19] Instagram formerly made use of the Foursquare API but, after being purchased by Facebook, was forced to switch to Facebook Places at the behest of its parent company, aggravating many existing users.[20]

Super Users[edit]

The service provides three levels of "Super User". Superuser status is conferred on users who have been selected by foursquare staff for their helpful contributions to the community.[21]

All superusers can review a queue of requested changes for a single city, and can select a new city at will.

  • Superuser level 1 can edit venue info (name, address, cross street, phone, Twitter names, map pin location), mark venues as open or closed, request venue merges and deletions, edit venue tags, and add categories.
  • Superuser level 2 can additionally merge duplicate venue listings, adjust the latitude and longitude of a venue, add a web address, and access a "country queue" of pending requests.
  • Superuser level 3 adds the ability to create and remove venue aliases, as well as access a "global queue" of pending requests needing superuser attention.

Brands[edit]

Foursquare Brands allows companies to create pages of tips and allows users to "follow" the company and receive special, expert tips from them when they check-in at certain locations. Some of the companies allow users to unlock special badges when they have achieved a certain number of check-ins. On most companies' pages, their Facebook, Twitter and website links are displayed as well as tips and lists generated by the company.

On July 25, 2012 Foursquare revealed "Promoted Updates," an app update which will create a new experience for both consumers and merchants as well as create a new revenue generation stream for the company. The new program will allow companies to issue messages to Foursquare users about deals or available products.[22]

In June 2013, the company introduced Time Machine, which provides a visual way to review one's historical check-ins on the service. This feature contains an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone[23]

Specials[edit]

"Specials" are an incentive for Foursquare users to go "check-in" at a new spot or revisit their favorite hangout. There are over 750,000[citation needed] different businesses that offer "Specials" that include discounts and freebies when users check-in. Foursquare specials are intended for businesses to use to persuade new customers and regular customers to visit their venue. Some businesses now display a Foursquare sign on their door or window letting users know that there is a "Special" at that particular venue. "Specials" can include anything from a free beer for the first check-in to 10% off the bill at a restaurant. Some Foursquare users only use Foursquare for the "Specials".[citation needed]

Availability[edit]

Foursquare 8.0[edit]

Foursquare 8.0 is currently available for Android and iOS devices. A version for Windows Phone is under development for release in late 2014. There are currently no plans to develop a version for Blackberry devices.

Other versions[edit]

Versions of Foursquare are available for Symbian, Series 40, MeeGo, WebOS, Maemo, Windows Phone, Bada and BlackBerry and recently PlayStation Vita and Windows 8[24] applications.[25] Users may also use their mobile browsers to access foursquare mobile, but feature phone users must search for venues manually instead of using GPS that most smartphone applications can use.

Foursquare for Business[edit]

'Foursquare for Business' is currently available for iOS.

History[edit]

Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of foursquare.

Foursquare started out in 2009 with limited availability in only 100 worldwide metro areas.[26] In January 2010, Foursquare changed their location model to allow check-ins from any location worldwide.[27] On February 21, 2011 Foursquare reached 7 million users IDs.[28] On August 8, 2011 President Barack Obama joined Foursquare, with the intention that the staff at the White House would use the service to post tips from places the president has visited.[29]

Foursquare 2.0[edit]

In September 2010 foursquare announced version 2.0 of its check-in app which would help to direct users to new locations and activities, rather than just sharing their location with friends. The list of personal list of places and activities, called to-dos, was separated from the general advice from other users section called "tips". Foursquare has also created a button that would add any location in the app to a user's to-do list, and the app would now remind the user when there were to-do items nearby. Around this time, third party sites such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Zagat added an "Add to My foursquare" button, which would add a location to the user's to-do list.[30]

Foursquare 3.0[edit]

Foursquare 3.0 was released for Android and iPhone users on March 8, 2011. As of July 4, 2011, the official Foursquare application for Windows Phone 7 also has these features.

The company was expected to pass 750 million check-ins before the end of June 2011, with an average of about 3 million check-ins per day.

Foursquare 4.0[edit]

Foursquare 4.0 was released for the iPhone on the morning of October 12, 2011, with other platforms following after. The update added a new feature called "Radar", powered by Foursquare's "Explore" algorithm. Radar is able to notify the user, for example, when they are close to a place that's either on their to-do list or another list they follow or when three or more friends have checked into a nearby venue.

Foursquare 5.0[edit]

On June 7, 2012, Foursquare launched a major redesign, which they described as a "whole new app". The app's "explore" function will now allow users to browse locations by category or conduct a specific search like "free wi-fi" or "dumplings".[31] Foursquare incorporated features from social discovery[32] and local search applications, as well as the "like" feature made famous by Facebook.

On November 5, 2012, Foursquare announced an update to their iOS mobile app that will showcase a ratings system to locations on a one to ten scale. The ratings will be based on tips, dislikes and ratings from previous check-ins. This update will help foursquare better compete with other location services like Yelp.[33]

On November 7, 2012, foursquare announced another update to their iOS mobile app, allowing users to check in to a location with Facebook friends who do not use the service themselves.[34]

On November 21, 2012, foursquare announced a "Recently Opened" feature to its iOS app, allowing users to find recently opened locations in their areas.[35]

Foursquare 6.0[edit]

Foursquare 6.0 was released on April 10, 2013.

Foursquare 7.0[edit]

Foursquare 7.0 was released on December 5, 2013.

Foursquare 8.0 and Swarm 1.0 - Splitting the Service[edit]

Swarm 1.0 was released on May 5, 2014 and Foursquare 8.0 was released on August 6, 2014.

Funding[edit]

Foursquare is principally funded by Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and Spark Capital. The company raised $1.35 million in its Series A and $20 million in its Series B round.[36][37] On June 24, 2011, Foursquare raised $50 million on a $600 million valuation.[38] Their Series D funding of $41 million was announced on April 11, 2013 and led by Silver Lake Partners.[39] Unlike prior funding rounds that had been financed via equity, a good portion of Series D came in the form of convertible debt from existing investors.[40]

Partnerships[edit]

In February 2010, the company entered into new commercial partnerships with Zagat, Bravo, Conde Nast, The New York Times and several other firms to offer tips, specials and new badges to followers.[41][42][43]

In June 2011, Foursquare announced a promotional partnership with American Express,[44] as part of AmEx's "sync" social media strategy, which allows for discounts to be applied directly to qualified American Express account holders by checking in to participating vendors.[45]

In March 2012, Foursquare announced they would no longer be using Google Maps for their platform, instead moving to OpenStreetMap, via MapBox rendering and style. Foursquare stated they were happier to promote crowd-sourced, open data.[46] As of September 2014 Foursquare was still using Google Maps in the Android app.[original research?]

Foursquare partnered with the London 2012 Olympics, allowing users to check in at numerous locations in and around the Olympic venue. A "Get Fit for Olympic Day" badge was created for the event as well.[47]

Early 2014, Microsoft announced an extensive partnership with Foursquare, giving access to their users’ physical movements and preferences. This data can be used to personalize search results on the search engine Bing.[48]

Awards[edit]

  • In 2010, Foursquare was named a runner-up in the T3 Gadget Awards 2010 as the App of the Year.[49]
  • In August 2010, the company was a finalist in Lead411's New York City Hot 125.[50]
  • In April 2010, Foursquare received a Webby Award as one of the best mobile social networks.[51]
  • In March 2010, Foursquare was nominated for the 13th annual SXSW Web Awards in the Mobile Category.[52]
  • Foursquare was named a 2011 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in the Information Technologies and New Media category.[53]
  • In January 2011, Foursquare was named Best Location Based Service in the TechCrunch Crunchies 2010.[54]

Foursquare Day[edit]

Foursquare acknowledged a grass-roots effort that started in Tampa, Florida [55] in 2010 by declaring April 16 "Foursquare Day",[56][57] April being the 4th month and the 16th being equal to four squared.[58][59] Some cities have made official proclamations of April 16 being Foursquare Day (Istanbul, Turkey; Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Corpus Christi, Texas; Gaithersburg, Maryland; Indianapolis, Indiana; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Kennesaw, Georgia; Manchester, New Hampshire; New York City; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Seattle, Washington; Miami, Florida; Victoria, Canada; Toronto, Canada; Ramat Hasharon, Israel; Singapore).[60][61][62][63]

Foursquare Day was coined by Nate Bonilla-Warford, an optometrist from Tampa, Florida on March 12, 2010. The idea came to him while "thinking about new ways to promote his business".[64]

In 2010 McDonald's launched a spring pilot program that took advantage of Foursquare Day. Foursquare users who checked into McDonald's restaurants on Foursquare Day were given the chance to win gift cards in 5 and 10 dollar increments. Mashable reported that there was a "33% increase in foot traffic" to McDonald's venues, as apparent in the increase in Foursquare check-ins.[65]

Privacy[edit]

In February 2010, a site known as Please Rob Me was launched,[66] a site which scraped data from public Twitter messages that had been pushed through Foursquare, to list people who were not at home.[66] The purpose of the site was to raise awareness about the potential thoughtlessness of location sharing, the site's founder saying "On one end we're leaving lights on when we're going on a holiday, and on the other we're telling everybody on the internet we're not home."[66]

A privacy issue was also observed for those who connected their Twitter account to Foursquare. If such a user was joined at a location by one of their Foursquare contacts who was also using Twitter, that user would have the option to have Foursquare post a message such as "I am at Starbucks – Santa Clara (link to map) w/@mediaphyter" to their own Twitter feed. Similarly, if a user had agreed for their location to be shared with other Foursquare users, that user's Foursquare contacts would be able to easily share their location publicly on Twitter.[67]

Later in 2010, white hat hacker Jesper Andersen discovered a vulnerability on foursquare that raised privacy concerns.[68][69] foursquare's location pages display a grid of 50 pictures that is generated randomly, regardless of their privacy settings.[68] Whenever a user "checks-in" at that location, their picture is generated on that location page, even if they only want their friends to know where they are.[68] Andersen then crafted a script that collected check-in information.[68] It is estimated that Andersen collected around 875,000 check-ins.[68] Andersen contacted foursquare about the vulnerability, and foursquare responded by fixing their privacy settings.[69]

In 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urged the White House to increase Internet privacy measures, especially for mobile devices and social networks, stating that federal laws have not kept up with the applications to ensure that personal information isn't being improperly used.[70]

In response to the privacy issues regarding social networking sites, foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai states that "Users decide if they want to push to Twitter or Facebook, over what information they want to share and send" and "There is a lot of misunderstanding about location based services. On foursquare, if you don't want people to know you are on a date or with a friend at a certain place, then you don't have to let people know. You don't check in." Selvadurai also states that foursquare does not passively track users, which means a user has to actively check in to let people know where they are.[71]

On May 8, 2012 Foursquare developers announced a change to the API [72] in response to a number of so-called "stalker" applications which had been making the locations of e.g. all female users within a specific area available to the public.[73]

In late December 2012, Foursquare updated its privacy policy which will now display users' full names, as opposed to an initial for a surname. In addition, companies will now be able to view a more detailed overview of visitors who have checked into their businesses throughout the day.[74]

Lawsuit[edit]

Mobile Commerce Framework Inc, an intellectual property enforcement firm[75] filed a lawsuit against foursquare on March 10, 2011, for infringing on their US Patent No:- U.S. Patent 7,693,752 (subscription-based system for providing commerce information).[76]

See also[edit]

  • Gowalla
  • Jiepang, a similar service often dubbed the "Foursquare of China"

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