Foursquare Built The Location Layer for the Internet

Now that Steve Wozniak has left the confines of Apple, he has time for more important things. Like checking in everywhere on Foursquare. Wozniak checks in whether he is at the airport, the movie theatre, or even his home. And, of course, this also gets cross-posted on Twitter so we don’t miss what he’s up to.

Now, not all of us have the appealing “Woz” factor that make people want to follow his every move, but if you’ve used Foursquare, you know how addicting it can be. All you need to do is call up the app, enter what you're looking for in the search box (it could be a restaurant name, or something as simple as 'breakfast tacos') and you'll immediately see a list of all the places around you that fit your search. This is all possible thanks to Foursquare’s venue search API, or application programming interface.

I spoke recently with Mike Harkey, the head of platform business development at Foursquare about how this one open API has been spearheading success for the location-based social networking company.

“Our venue search API is one of the most popular APIs that developers use because of there’s so much demand for such a straightforward, geocoding solution,” Harkey said. “The phone sends out the latitude and longitude of the user’s location and what is sent back is a list of places nearby. With more than five billion check-ins using this API and 60 million points of interest in our database covering all countries in the world, it has been one of the most attractive points that make developers want to work with it.”

But what has made Foursquare so successful recently and has actually led to a partnership with Microsoft, is its ability to send users tips and recommendations based on personalization and big data analysis.

“When you check in, Foursquare knows where you tend to go,” Harkey said. “Then it can offer recommendations at a local level that we think are really much different than you’d find at other services. Merchants love Foursquare because we provide a great channel for them to reach their customers. They can sign up, claim a business, edit their info, add photos, tips and a Twitter account, all for free.”

Businesses can get in-depth analytics and feedback from customers about what they’re happy about and what they’d like to see be improved. Also, based on this feedback, Foursquare can take the recommendations and tips and make them bold, so that when you visit that local bar or sushi restaurant, the most attractive and popular review will stand out. Because of this, there has been an organic appeal that draws other businesses in to Foursquare. There’s also an advertising option that brands can explore with Foursquare.

When it sees that you stay in one place for a while, it can send you a system level notification or ping that recommends a tip for a place nearby. When it sees that you stay in one place for a while, it can send you a system level notification or ping that recommends a tip.

There’s a lot on the horizon for Foursquare, but one opportunity that Harkey is excited about is wearable technology, because he sees it as a new way to engage with a new audience.

“We have had a partnership with Nike+ for some time and we’re excited about wearables,” he said. “It’s another screen to engage with Foursquare and deliver valuable content and services to take to different platforms.”

"2014 is going to be an important year for Foursquare. They proved their business model in 2013, introduced new technologies and features, and answered many of their critics around the world. And they're looking to build on all that success.

“One thing we’re trying to better at Foursquare is find out where people go after a particular venue or location,” Harkey told me. “Is a bar or restaurant nearby? How about a show? We’re excited about the opportunities we have in front of us and increasing the places where Foursquare can live will help people stay connected and improve the experiences they have at the places they’ll go.”

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