Foursquare predicts we’ll soon be searching for where, not what

The next few months could see Foursquare going into partnership with either Google, Yahoo or Microsoft as they seek to assert their dominance over the emerging trend of location-based social networking.

In an interview with The Telegraph, CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley revealed his vision of a “search partnership which could let people look up the most popular bar or restaurant in their area in real time.”

The deal would be reminiscent of Twitter’s move into the mainstream when it made deals with all of the major search players that permitted them to add tweets to their search results, giving them much more real-time appeal. Crowley explains that “Twitter helped the world and the search engines know what people are talking about. Foursquare would allow people to search for the types of place people are going to – and where is trending – not what.”

Foursquare is not the only company playing in the location field, and Gowalla and Yelp are considered extremely strong competitors. But on the back of a $20-million investment from Silicon Valley’s major VC investment company Andreesen Horowitz, and with the news that membership has just hit the two million mark only three months after they had signed up one million members, it seems that the momentum is squarely with Foursquare at the moment. It seems prudent for Foursquare to make a move while they have the upper hand.

Location-based social networking is still relatively fresh and new players could surface at any time to change the “check-in” game completely. The biggest threat is that market leaders like Facebook, or even Google themselves, could use their size to dominate this new field and squeeze out the smaller players.

Crowley is no stranger to Google, having sold Dodgeball, an early prototype of location-based social networking software, to Google in 2005. The service was subsequently shut down in 2009 and replaced with Google Latitude, a location-aware mobile app.

But social media news site Mashable speculates that a partnership is more likely with Microsoft, given the fact that they “already have a deal which puts tips from Foursquare users on Bing Maps.”

But while things are hotting up in the world of location-based social networking on a global scale, Foursquare’s uptake has been limited in South Africa.

Vincent Maher, Portfolio Manager of Vodacom’s Social Networking division and one of the founders of The Grid, South Africa’s mobile social network, believes that it will only take off once when there is a large-scale uptake of smart phones.

Currently, only the Blackberry, Android and iPhone handsets enable you to use Foursquare, and these smart phones still occupy a niche market on the South African landscape.

Have you signed up to Foursquare or Gowalla? Do you think it’s going to take off in South Africa?
Tell us what you think.



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