What Is Foursquare And How Do I Use It?

A screenshot from the Foursquare iPhone app

New York mobile startup Foursquare is one of the hottest Internet companies around.

But what is it? What’s it for? How can you get started?

Foursquare is primarily for letting your friends know where you are and figuring out where they are. Secondarily, it’s for collecting points, prize “badges,” and eventually, coupons, for going about your everyday business.

And it’s becoming popular. Foursquare now has almost 275,000 users in less than a year.

As a business, it hasn’t done much in the way of revenue-generation yet, but some strategies for doing so are coming in to focus. Promotional deals for frequent customers have already started popping up on the service. Co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley tells us that Foursquare will be experimenting with a wide-range of strategies over the coming months.

Here’s a step-by-step look at what Foursquare is and how it works on Apple’s iPhone.

Check out Foursquare in action >

When you first boot up the app, you see a list of your friends, and what they're up to

How does Foursquare know what your friends are up to? They have 'checked in' and left comments with their accounts.

How does it know who your 'friends' are? You can 'friend' people in Foursquare...or just import your Facebook friends.

Clicking on one of your friends will bring up her profile

How does Foursquare know where you are? It uses your phone's GPS.

The list of venues includes, first and foremost, bars, as well as restaurants, stores, and other locations.

You set how public you want your check-in to be: Foursquare can tell your friends within the game, Twitter, or Facebook.

That's it! You're in. You can see who else is in the same spot, and you will be awarded points for your check-ins

You can also see who is 'the mayor' of the place you're in -- that is, who has checked-in the most frequently.

Look at a venue on Google Maps, and search for nearby tweets

The 'Tips' tab shows you suggestions for what to do at this venue; you can also add your own

You can also keep a 'to-do' list of tips you want to follow in the future.

You can earn badges based on your check-ins.

There are badges for total number of check-ins, for checking in to the same place repeatedly, for checking-in to many places in a single night, and so on.

Here's the game aspect: you can see a leader board of all of your friends and how many points they have this week

Invite friends from Facebook or Twitter to add more people to the mix

You can see what your friends have accomplished

Foursquare can ping you when a friend checks in somewhere

On the Foursquare Web site, you can keep track of tasks you want to complete, manage your friends, and review your stats...

... in fact, you can look very, very closely at your stats. A good way to learn a little too much about your going-out habits.

Manage account settings to control what information Foursquare makes public, and when and where (Twitter, Facebook) it publishes your activity.

... New And Upcoming features:

  • A BlackBerry app
  • A redesign of the iPhone version
  • A revised, cheat-resistant scoreboard

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