Foursquare tiptoes into local search
Visitors to Foursquare’s front page now see a search bar where they can search through the service’s location database even if they don’t have an account. Members of the service can also use the feature as long as they are logged out of the site itself.
With every social app these days adding some type of check-in feature to their services, Foursquare’s signature feature isn’t so special anymore. That said, the company is responding by branching out into the realm of local search.
To search Foursquare’s database, the user can enter a term such as “chinese food” or “coffee,” and then enter a location. Results returned are based on relevance and popularity on Foursquare based on a business's check-in totals.
The feature is called Foursquare Explore, and it was originally launched in early summer to provide a recommendation engine for its users within the app itself. The web version uses Foursquare users’ three million-plus check-ins and 30 million tips to steer searchers in the right direction.
Foursquare says that making the actual tips posted by its users searchable makes its results more relevant. This way, a search for say "spaghetti" will turn up in a search for an Italian restaurant even though the place’s name may not specifically mention it.
The service will add other factors such as cost and hours of operation in the near future, it says. All in all, the aim here is to end Foursquare’s dependency on check-ins to keep the service afloat.
The Foursquare app underwent a major redesign in June that brought local search to the forefront. Now, users do not need to necessarily check in to use the app.
Whether jumping into local search will work for Foursquare remains to be seen. Google has the stranglehold on local search given its own results are integrated tightly into the search engine itself; other competitors like Yelp and and Citysearch are fight over what’s left.
This doesn’t leave much left over for Foursquare. What may help though is Foursquare’s already local (but declining) base of users, which may already be using the service’s local search features within the app on a regular basis.