Foursquare is dead, long live Foursquare. Last month, the app killed its core function, check-ins, and officially moved that feature over to its spin-off app Swarm. The move was preparation for Wednesday's relaunch of a brand-new Foursquare app for iOS and Android that constantly hovers in the background of your phone (and your life), offering you hyper-local recommendations. It's like an omnipresent Yelp.
Unlike Yelp, Foursquare's new app is designed to offer suggestions on where to go based on your likes and where you go. If you hit up enough steakhouses, Foursquare will sense that you're a voracious carnivore and will let you know when you're near a great restaurant. If you tell Foursquare that you like bookstores, you'll get tipped off when you pass by a good one. Plus, you'll see helpful hints left by other users.
"Our phones should learn about us--our tastes, our social connections, and our preferences," Foursquare said in a Wednesday announcement about the new app. "And, using what they know, they should help us better explore the world around us. If you love vintage clothing, it should tell you that there is a hidden gem nearby. If you're in a new city, it should tell you that your friend Katy highly recommends this hole-in-the-wall restaurant downtown. If you crave spicy food, it should advise which dishes you should order when you sit down for dinner. We built the all-new Foursquare to realize this vision. The world is a beautiful place full of all sorts of amazing experiences, and our phones should help guide us to them."
Foursquare has been working on this recommendation engine for years. It's powered by the billions of pieces of data that Foursquare users have given the app every time they checked in or left a tip about a place. That adds up to 65 million places with 6 billion check-ins and 55 million tips, not to mention all the photos.
But the new app is unlikely to satisfy disgruntled Foursquare users who were pushed to install Swarm. Foursquare said two apps were necessary because rarely were people checking in and looking for recommendations, so it made sense to separate the feature. But the check-in contingent has been vocal in its outrage. Foursquare stripped Swarm of many of the gamification features that attracted users to Foursquare to begin with, and the spin-off app's location back-end isn't as robust as Foursquare's.
Foursquare investor Fred Wilson said the split was due to the app's two very different use cases: "The all-new Foursquare has the Twitter privacy model (default public)," he wrote in a Wednesday blog post. "And the Swarm app has the Facebook privacy model (default private)." You want your friends to know when you check in somewhere, but you want all of Foursquare to know when you have a tip about what to order at the trendiest eatery in town.
We'll spend a week with the new Foursquare and let you know if it's as amazing as the company claims, or if Yelp is the only local search engine you need.