I wrote a relatively broad overview of the new Foursquare mobile app at Search Engine Land. If someone held a gun to my head and said, “Do you like it — yes or no?” I’d say “yes.”
The app does a nice job of being able to make very recommendations for places and specific items (e.g., menu items) whether where I am now or where I’m going. There’s a lot of sophistication going on behind the scenes in the new app to create a much more personalized local search or discovery experience.
Arguably this app will help you to find good “fish tacos” faster than others, where you have to do a search (or multiple searches) and then refine.
Beyond this the new app’s UI/UX also are sufficiently unique that it doesn’t look like a “me too” app. Personalization is the big selling point here. It’s enabled by a range of data and behaviors. For example, your location profile — where you go in the world — contributes to Foursquare recommendations.
There’s also explicit personalization in the form of what Foursquare calls a “taste game.” Years ago before Yell bought it, Trusted Places offered something quite similar (“taste matcher”), although that user experience was more like “hot or not.”
I think Foursquare has produced a new app that isn’t a radical departure from the pre-existing one but which makes some of the app’s virtues more obvious to users. I do think there’s a bit too much clutter and even complexity here however. Yelp, TripAdvisor, YP and Google are all simpler (if less efficient) in several respects.
Foursquare argues that the new app offers a better, more trustworthy local search/discovery experience. And that may well be true but it will need to become a bit more streamlined before it can attract the kinds of audiences and adoption that will allow the company to remain independent.
Update: The WSJ picks up on location profiling or “persistent location tracking” in the new Foursquare app. In my discussion with Foursquare, when I heard this was going on, I warned the company that there would be articles about “surveillance” and surreptitious tracking.
As I indicate above, Foursquare told me that the location profile data are used only for individual personalization and not provided to any third party. Later on the temptation of course might be to use this for advertising purposes. Indeed, most mobile ad networks are doing a version of this already, but creating aggregated categories of users rather than focusing on individuals.
I don’t believe that Foursquare is doing something sinister here. Yet the company must be clear with consumers that this is going on and why. Otherwise the conspiracy theories and “surveillance” memes will take over the personalization narrative.