Foursquare Takes On Yelp With New Homepage Search Box

foursquare-iconPerhaps it was always inevitable that Foursquare would shift its emphasis from location-based social networking to local search. Indeed, the site has been moving in this direction for quite some time, and very self-consciously for the better part of the past year.

This afternoon the company is rolling out a new PC homepage for users who aren’t logged in: it prominently features a search box. In doing so Foursquare takes aim at Yelp as its chief rival in the local space. And in some ways the move completes Foursquare’s evolution from a more narrow and novelty oriented friend finder, game and check-in app to a genuine local search utility with much broader “mainstream” ambitions and appeal.

The current “logged out” homepage offers a number of screens and video that try to explain what Foursquare is and does. A small search box resides in the upper right corner. The new homepage is completely self-explanatory and looks like this:

Former Googler Andrew Hogue, hired by Foursquare in December 2011, has been busy working to improve the Foursquare algorithm and overall Foursquare search experience on its mobile apps and PC site. This release is the result of his team’s efforts over the summer.

All the social features of Foursquare are present; nothing changes there. Indeed, members still have access to a richer experience and personalized recommendations that non-members won’t. However non-members or those with a tiny or non-existent network on the site can now gain a lot more utility and value out of Foursquare.

The company has taken a wide range of data and variables, including check-ins, lists, likes, dislikes, tips and other information to create numerical scores for each business or listing and rank them accordingly. This aggregated view of Foursquare’s data and corresponding rankings make the site useful to anyone rather than just those who’ve made a significant “investment” in Foursquare and have been using it for some time.

Results are listed in order by score. However non-members can also filter by Foursquare special. Other filters are accessible only to those who are members and logged in. The beauty of Foursquare’s scores and rankings is that they really can’t be “gamed” — in part because they’re based on real-world behavior.

It’s logical to assume that Foursquare will be putting ads or sponsored listings into search results at some point in the near future. However, Andrew Hogue told me on Friday that there’s no immediate plan to do that.

Currently Foursquare is testing its first “ad” product, “promoted updates.” The company also introduced loyalty marketing tool “local updates” in July. Ultimately there are a number of interesting ways for Foursquare to monetize around brand advertising, sponsored search results, loyalty marketing and deals that will enhance rather than dilute or obstruct the user experience.

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley told people at an event in New York recently that, “Foursquare’s proposed monetization looks a lot like Google AdWords, but ‘targeted just at local, and exclusively on mobile.’”

Related Entries

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Features: Analysis | Foursquare | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Search Engines: Mobile Search Engines | Search Engines: Personalized Search Engines | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • John S. Wilson

    Great idea. They should deemphasize check-ins and work on more loyalty discounts, better local search, and recommendations. This is where they can separate themselves.

  • GrigorijGregKail

    In this case they will turn in to Yelp. Don’t forget, majority of the content on 4SQ is generated by the users, who find the check-ins and the gamification central activity on this network.

  • MicroSourcing

    Foursquare’s challenge is to become a viable advertising platform without compromising or diminishing user experience. Striking the balance between the two is something that Google and Facebook are still trying to do.

  • Coffy Group

    Things are really looking up for Foursquare. Having emphasized focus on mobile users combined with their scoring system – that can’t be “gamed” as you put it, is their edge. Check-ins and real feedback would definitely provide better information for others to base on.

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