If you’re not one of the 25-million Foursquare users who sees the appeal in checking in everywhere from space to that kooky restaurant down the street, don’t stress. Foursquare has another plan to get you using its user-generated personalised recommendation service. And you don’t even need an account.
The startup announced that it’s now allowing everyone to access customised suggestions, without signing up or checking in, directly from its website. Its redesigned home page tracks your current location, and lets you search for anything from major sights to food and businesses, based on where you are in the world. It’s essentially an expanded version of the explore feature in the Foursquare app, which is used over a million times a day.
The app recommends places based on your previous check-ins — so how does the revamped explore function work? According to the team, the suggestions are based on billions of previous check-ins from other users. Foursquare has adjusted the system that supplies suggestions, after analysing almost three-billion check-ins and 30-million tips in order to find the best recommendations. Yes — if you’re a Foursquare user, you’ve helped it create its public recommendation engine. It doesn’t need previous check-ins to suggest places based on popular spots in the area, trending locations and even the places that are most visited on that particular weekday.
The system also allows you to look for more than locations, by searching through the tips left by other users. You can search for things like sushi, hamburgers, sunsets or hikes to see Foursquare’s top picks for those items. Although it’s far from perfect — it’s based on the idea that users would have used the same words you’re searching for, so may not just return results for the best spots. For example, searches for ‘veggie burger’ and ‘cocktails’ included ‘top’ results from places where users had said that there was no veggie burger available, or that the cocktails were a disaster. But Foursquare is working on adding more detailed information to its results, including opening and closing times and average prices.
As FastCompany notes, the new public explore function has given Foursquare the potential to reach the masses who might not want to check-in, but rather passively gather suggestions. It’s also a move beyond a social networking based recommendation service, as Foursquare could potentially continue to use the data generated by its more active registered users to provide services that rival Google+ Local, Bing’s socially driven search or review and local search service Yelp.