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For the ball game, see four square. For other uses, see Four square (disambiguation).
Foursquare Labs, Inc.
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
Alexa rank negative increase 612 (June 2014)[1]
Type of site Social Networking
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 location-based social networking website for mobile devices, such as smartphones. Until late July 2014, users would "check in" at venues using a mobile website, text messaging, or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby.[3] The check-in feature has been moved to a companion app known as Swarm. Location is based on GPS hardware in the mobile device or network location provided by the application, and the map is based on data from the OpenStreetMap project. Formerly, each check-in awarded the user points and sometimes "badges". The user who checked in the most often to a venue became the "mayor," and users regularly vied for "mayorships."

The service was created in late 2008 and launched in 2009[4] 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.[5]

Foursquare is the second iteration of the same idea, that people can use mobile devices to interact with their environment. As of April 2012, the company reported it had 20 million registered users.[6] 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. 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]


Showing nearby venues on the foursquare Android application.
Showing a user's Foursquare profile from a Foursquare app for Android.

Foursquare is a web and mobile application that allows registered users to post their location at a venue ("check-in") and connect with friends. Check-in requires active user selection and points are awarded at check-in. As of April 2012, there have been more than 2 billion check-ins with Foursquare. Users are encouraged to be hyper-local and hyper-specific with their check-ins—one can check into a certain floor/area of a building, or indicate a specific activity while at a venue. Users can choose to have their check-ins posted on their accounts on Twitter, Facebook, or both. A 2011 study of unfollowing behaviour on Twitter[10] found that "respondents exhibited a distaste for automatically generated bursts of Foursquare logs." In version 1.3 of their iPhone application, foursquare enabled push-notification of friend updates, which they call "Pings". Users can also earn badges by checking in at locations with certain tags, for check-in frequency, or for other patterns such as time of check-in.[11] The company has stated that users will be able to add their own custom badges to the site in the future.[12]

Users can create a "To Do" list for their private use and add "Tips" to venues that other users can read, which serve as suggestions for things to do, see or eat at the location.[13]

In addition, a history page allows users to search a list of their past check-ins, which is broken down by month and year. A sidebar also allows them to search their check-ins by category or who they were with at the time.[14]

Superuser status[edit]

The service provides three levels of "Superuser status" (which is not to be confused with the "Super User" badge). Superuser status is conferred on users who have been selected by foursquare staff for their helpful contributions to the community.[15]

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.


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.[16]

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[17]


"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]

Former features[edit]


If a user has checked into a venue on more days than anyone else in the past 60 days, and the check-ins are valid under Foursquare's time and distance protocols, they will be crowned mayor. The user must have a profile picture in order to be crowned "Mayor" of that venue. Someone else may earn the title by checking in more times than the previous mayor. It is harder to be crowned mayor in spaces that are swarming. Even after someone has been crowned "Mayor," they must continuously check in to maintain their position as mayor.[18] On August 26, 2010, foursquare rolled out a new feature which notifies users of the number of days left before he or she is crowned "Mayor". When a user "checks in" to a venue on foursquare via a mobile app, if she or he is within 10 check-ins of becoming the mayor, foursquare alerts the user of the days left before becoming mayor on the check-in confirmation screen.[19]


Badges are earned by checking into various venues. Some badges can only be earned in a specific city. Foursquare has, however, changed the way they handle badges, and now when a user gains a badge, he or she has the same badges across all cities. Once a badge is earned by a user, it will remain on that user's profile indefinitely.

There are a handful of introductory badges that are earned as milestones in usage. Some badges are tied to venue "tags" and the badge earned depends on the tags applied to the venue.[20] Other badges may be specific to a city, venue, event, or date. Some badges use identical icons, but are earned differently. There is no official foursquare badge list available from the company.

On September 23, 2010, foursquare announced that users could now earn badges for completing tasks as well as checking in.[21] On October 22, 2010, astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock unlocked the NASA Explorer badge by checking into foursquare from the International Space Station.[22][23]


Each time the user checks into a place, he or she receives points. There are more than 100 reasons Foursquare awards points. Some of the most commonly awarded ones are below:[24]

  • Checking in to a new place – 3 points
  • Becoming the Mayor of a venue – 5 points
  • Checking in when already the Mayor – 3 points
  • Being the first of the user's friends to check into a new location – 3 points
  • Checking in to a place the user has been before – 1 point
  • Checking in to a new category for the first time – 4 points

Users can check their standing against friends on a leaderboard within the app.


Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of foursquare.

Foursquare started out in 2009 with limited availability in only 100 worldwide metro areas.[25] In January 2010, Foursquare changed their location model to allow check-ins from any location worldwide.[26] On February 21, 2011 Foursquare reached 7 million users IDs.[27] 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.[28]


Foursquare currently has iOS, Symbian, Series 40, MeeGo, Android, WebOS, Windows Phone, Bada and BlackBerry and recently PlayStation Vita and Windows 8[29] applications.[30] A Maemo application is in early development stage and is not featured on the foursquare website.[31] Users with Symbian phones and Pocket PCs (Windows Mobile touchscreen) can also use foursquare via Waze, which is also available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, although GPS functionality is needed for this (unlike the end-of-life Google Latitude, Waze will not report your location based on a cellular or Wi-Fi positioning).[32] Also, there's another application for Symbian users named "Sym4Square" is similar to the application for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone.[33] 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 PDA applications can use.

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.[34]

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.

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.


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".[35] Foursquare incorporated features from social discovery[36] 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.[37]

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.[38]

On November 21, 2012, foursquare announced a "Recently Opened" feature to its iOS app, allowing users to find recently opened locations in their areas.[39]


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.[40][41] On June 24, 2011, Foursquare raised $50 million on a $600 million valuation.[6] Their Series D funding of $41 million was announced on April 11, 2013 and led by Silver Lake Partners.[42] 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.[43]


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.[44][45][46]

In June 2011, Foursquare announced a promotional partnership with American Express,[47] 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.[48]

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.[49]

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.[50]

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.[51]


  • In 2010, foursquare was named a runner-up in the T3 Gadget Awards 2010 as the App of the Year.[52]
  • In August 2010, the company was a finalist in Lead411's New York City Hot 125.[53]
  • In April 2010, foursquare received a Webby Award as one of the best mobile social networks.[54]
  • In March 2010, foursquare was nominated for the 13th annual SXSW Web Awards in the Mobile Category.[55]
  • Foursquare was named a 2011 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in the Information Technologies and New Media category.[56]
  • In January 2011, foursquare was named Best Location Based Service in the TechCrunch Crunchies 2010.[57]

Foursquare Day[edit]

Foursquare acknowledged a grass-roots effort that started in Tampa, Florida [58] in 2010 by declaring April 16 "Foursquare Day",[59][60] April being the 4th month and the 16th being equal to four squared.[61][62] 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).[63][64][65][66]

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".[67]

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.[68]

Foursquare Day has also sparked creativity among Foursquare fans in terms of art and even technology. The Foursquare Clock; an analog-style mantle clock which tells its reader in live time where the creator is and how long he has been there was created for Foursquare Day.[69]


In February 2010, a site known as Please Rob Me was launched,[70] a site which scraped data from public Twitter messages that had been pushed through Foursquare, to list people who were not at home.[70] 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."[70]

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.[71]

Later in 2010, white hat hacker Jesper Andersen discovered a vulnerability on foursquare that raised privacy concerns.[72][73] foursquare's location pages display a grid of 50 pictures that is generated randomly, regardless of their privacy settings.[72] 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.[72] Andersen then crafted a script that collected check-in information.[72] It is estimated that Andersen collected around 875,000 check-ins.[72] Andersen contacted foursquare about the vulnerability, and foursquare responded by fixing their privacy settings.[73]

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.[74]

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.[75]

On May 8, 2012 Foursquare developers announced a change to the API [76] 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.[77]

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.[78]


Mobile Commerce Framework Inc, an intellectual property enforcement firm[79] 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).[80]

See also[edit]

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


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External links[edit]