Last week, Foursquare rolled out a new home page for users who aren’t logged into the service and are accessing via a personal computer (non-mobile). Many probably didn’t notice the change, but it’s a direct assault on Yelp as Foursquare goes location-based search.
Most of us are familiar with Foursquare from the geo-based gaming and social networking it offers on our phones and mobile devices. Yet, while attractive to users, this aspect of the app has proven to be hard to monetize, so Foursquare has been moving towards emphasis on another aspect of their location-based app: search and the resulting ad revenues from premium listings.
This means it’s taking on Yelp, the current king of geo-based search. It also means that Foursquare will be facing off with Google eventually as well, since the search giant has been adding geo-based services for years.
Last year, Foursquare brought in former Googler Andrew Hogue and specifically stated that he would be working on their search algorithms. This latest update to the web-based portal is the first result of those efforts.
Of course, the core Foursquare we’re familiar with hasn’t changed. Just the search presentation on the home page of Foursquare.com when you aren’t logged in. It’s very obvious, though, that this will proliferate into the app over time. Even as-is, though, this is a huge jump ahead for Foursquare and a big step into the location-based search arena.
The search results in the familiar pointer bubbles on a map. What’s different is that the bubbles each have a number in them. That’s where it gets fun. Each location (mostly businesses) is ranked with a score based on several Foursquare-specific variables. Tehse include check-ins, lists that include them, number of likes/dislikes, user-added tips, and so forth. For those who aren’t active Foursquare users who aren’t interested in trying to become Mayor of a spot, just want to know how other users view it, this is a great find.
Logged-in members have various filters they can use to narrow down their choices on the search map. For everyone, though, this is a great setup because it’s nearly impossible for someone to “game” these numbers since they’re all based on real-world data, not arbitrary “rankings” and vote-ups. So while a local business could encourage users to like or participate in up-ticking their location, it would be close to impossible to generate armies of fake users to do it automatically – ala the Facebook and Twitter “Indian armies” of friends and likes so commonly sold on various freelancer sites.