Yesterday, Foursquare launched a new version of the PC (non-mobile) version of it’s website for logged-out users, featuring a large map and a search box to search for venues near you. It’s basically a version of the “Explore” feature that anyone can use, whether or not they’re a Foursquare user. This new feature can be looked at as Foursquare’s local search engine and can go head to head with Yelp, and maybe even Google.
For awhile now, Foursquare has been adding to its service to de-emphasize check-ins, as many users felt the service was only helpful if they were rigorous with checking in. For example, when Foursquare first introduced expertise badges, they planned on introducing ways to level-up without checking in, such as people completing your tips. The “Explore” tab was was important to this plan, but it required people to have a Foursquare account. This new website can be used by anyone, which may make Foursquare more mainstream as a local search tool. Searchers who enjoy the new map and search box may also turn into Foursquare users in the future.
When you go to Foursquare.com on a computer, the background will be a map of your current location (assuming the website can access it) with a search box in the middle. From there, you can type in what you’re looking for. This can be a category or product such as “park” or “pizza,” or a specific venue if you’re craving caffeine and don’t know where the nearest Starbucks is.
The search results are a product of a long-term project to improve the Foursquare algorithms. The Foursquare blog says that the algorithm shows recommendations for logged-out searchers based on signals beyond check-ins, likes, lists, and tips (which are still considered), such as what’s popular in your area, new venues, places that are “trending,” and where experts go. They say: “If you search for a bar, we don’t just tell you about great bars, but rather the best places you should go tonight.”
The algorithm assigns numerical ratings to venues and displays search results in order of ranking. The search results don’t just show the venues, but also popular tips for the venues. Non-members can also filter the search results so that only venues offering Foursquare specials appear. However, Foursquare specials can only be redeemed through the app, so it seems like for non-members to actually take advantage of the special, they would need to sign-up and download the app. Foursquare users can also filter the results by whether or not they have or haven’t been there, and where their Foursquare friends have been.
Have you tried using Foursquare’s new search box? Do you think it will be able to compete with other local search engines out there? Let us know what you think in the comments!
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By Brittany Berger