This evening Foursquare is launching a redesigned version of its iPhone app (with Android and Blackberry to follow). It represents both a simplification and expansion of the app, based on what the company has learned over the past three years.
The app is also cleaner and visually stronger. It features three nav buttons on the bottom: Friends, Explore and You/Me.
A Broader Friend Feed
The new app will display a wider range of activity from friends — not just checkins. Among other things you’ll now see are photos, Tips and new “Likes” in the friend feed.
The addition of Likes (hearts) now provides Foursquare with a new — and more reliable — social signal to enable the site/app to make improved recommendations. In the aggregate checkins do indicate popularity but in any individual case a checkin does not mean an endorsement. A Like does however.
The overall idea is to show and generate more social interactions, which in turn will create more user data for better recommendations — a kind of virtuous cycle. The company is also looking at the sentiment in Tips as another signal and ranking variable.
More to Explore
In tandem with expanded social engagement, Foursquare has redesigned the Explore tab. You’ll now see “top picks” in your immediate area (see image below). Foursquare has revamped its algorithm to provide better recommendations and venue options to users without making them search or browse. It’s a kind of persistent, queryless search.
“You don’t have to have a preconceived idea of what you want,” explained Foursquare’s Andrew Hogue. “When you open the Explore tab we want you to have a magical experience.” Added Hogue, ”We know who you are and where you are.”
In particular the changes will help create a better experience for new users and those without many friends on the system. Hogue said, “A big part of our testing was asking ‘what is the experience like for a brand new user?’” He said, “We’re going to provide great recommendations even if you don’t have history.”
A parallel set of changes will also go live on the PC version of Foursquare this evening.
Making the App “Work” for Newbies
Hogue stressed to me that Foursquare now has a huge amount of data it’s leveraging to deliver the best experience possible to casual and even new users. The company is using the historical, collective wisdom of its user base to “make the app work” for someone who just joined.
This is of course part of a larger effort to expand Foursquare’s appeal beyond the checkin crowd. Foursquare now has accumulated over two billion checkins and has more than 20 million users around the world.
The new app should be live in the iTunes store later tonight.
Postscript: Interestingly Foursquare has abandoned Google Maps on the PC site, but it’s still using Google Maps in the native app.