Today, Foursquare launched a completely reimagined app that aims to be the best local search engine in the world. If Foursquare succeeds, it could finally replace $US5 billion Yelp — and even Google — as the #1 way people discover places and experiences they will love.
The redesign is a strong move by CEO Dennis Crowley, who divided the company’s initial product into two separate apps in May. Swarm, the first app, has adopted the badges, check-ins and find-friends feature that initially made Foursquare popular.
The new core Foursquare app is a pivot to make Crowley’s company more like Yelp, with a robust mobile search engine that helps users unearths popular local venues. The pivot will make or break Foursquare’s business.
When the startup was 1.5 years old, Foursquare turned down multiple buyout offers for more than $US100 million. It raised money from investors at a $500 — 600 million valuation in 2011. Since then, the company’s growth has slowed and some have wondered if Foursquare’s product peaked.
But if it can master local mobile search, Crowley could beat Yelp and prove Foursquare is worth billions after all.
“The New York community needs Foursquare to win,” one entrepreneur told Business Insider, noting that excitement in the local tech sector seems to ebb and flow alongside Foursquare.
“If you don’t want Foursquare to win, then you don’t love startups or anything they stand for,” Lindsey Green, a friend of Crowley’s and a PR professional in New York, says. “They’re the good guys.”
But is the new Foursquare app good enough to get attract new users and get once-loyal fans excited again?
Visually, Crowley’s creation is a win. Design shop Red Antler worked with Foursquare on a new “watermelon” and blue theme, and traded in Foursquare’s iconic check-mark logo for an “F” that resembles a super hero’s emblem. The home screen is scattered with top-rated user photos that create an attractive, easy-to-scan mobile search and recommendation tool.
As a reminder, here’s what the old Foursquare app looks like. It has hardly any pictures.
Foursquare’s new mission is to make local searches extremely personalised. Every time you use Foursquare’s updated explore feature, it uses the data to make future recommendations more and more accurate.
The new app encourages users to add “tastes” or tags saying what products they like, whether it’s “cold brew coffee” or “guacamole.” Foursquare uses those tags to notify users when they’re near a relevant, popular place, or send them a tip about a venue once they have arrived.
“We’re not going to ping you every time you’re at a place [you frequent] like Business Insider,” Foursquare COO Jeff Glueck explained over the phone. “We’ll keep notifications limited to when you’re entering a new neighbourhood or you show up at a restaurant where your friends have left tips.”
Recommendations are further personalised when you follow people who have similar taste in food, restaurants and experiences.
There is still a gamification element to the new Foursquare, which encourages users to leave tips for others to unlock different levels of the app and badge-like icons.
Your searches can be specific, such as “steak dinner near Garment District,” and Foursquare will turn up accurate results.
Although Foursquare’s app implements a lot of features Yelp already has, like the ability to pull up bars, restaurants and coffee venues near you at any given time, the integrated social data makes Foursquare’s app feel more like it caters to you.
Here’s a side-by-side look at search results for “steak dinner in midtown Manhattan” on Yelp and the new Foursquare. Foursquare is on the left, Yelp is on the right.
“Of course an app [like this] should know whether I’m a vegan, gluten-free kind of person versus a steak and french fry lover,” says Glueck. “Why don’t big, existing search engines learn that? Your phone is in your pocket all day, it should really be your assistant to the world.”
Foursquare is rolling out a new slogan that defines the next era of Crowley’s company. Although he’s only been working at Foursquare for one month, the mantra rolls effortlessly off Glueck’s tongue.
“Foursquare’s new app learns what you like,” says Glueck, “and leads you to places you love.”
Here’s a video that demonstrates how the new Foursquare works:
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