Foursquare has been improving their service in the hopes of "moving beyond the check-in" for some time now. Today, they've released the all new Foursquare version 6.0 for both iOS and Android. With this update, search and recommendations (what Foursquare calls "Explore") is now a bigger part of the experience than ever.
Here's how Foursquare describes all the changes they've made to the app:
With the new Foursquare 6.0, we’re crunching all our data to show the best of what’s nearby, anywhere in the world, the second you open up the app. To help you discover all this, we totally redesigned the Foursquare app into four main sections. Here’s what you’ll see:
Search is now front-and-center at the top, so you can quickly find what you’re craving, or see things like trending places (in real-time) and top picks. Below that, you’ll see a map with nearby friends and interesting places highlighted. Tap on the map to expand it so you can see great places around you. After that, we show you the best things at that moment – our top personalized recommendations, along with your friends’ check-ins around the world. And, at the bottom, we have the new check-in button, for when you want to share and remember the places you go to.
Gone are the three tabs at the bottom of the screen that graced the previous versions (friends, explore, and me). Explore and your friend feed is all contained in the main feed, with search front and center. This is your "Home" screen. To access your profile and history, to-do lists, and more - just swipe right.
"Our goal with the new Foursquare is to reveal more of the world around you the moment you open up the app, and help you find exactly what you’re craving," says Foursquare.
And to that end, Foursquare has completely redesigned both their iOS and Android apps to help achieve what the company has been working toward the last couple of years - moving beyond the check-in.
You may have heard that phrase a lot in reference to Foursquare in the past year or so, and with good reason. Foursquare launched back in 2009 with a focus on check-ins - and that's about it. You checked in, earned some points, and maybe unlocked a badge. Yes, the app had a small social networking element to it - in that you could track your friends' check-ins and see how you stacked up on a points leaderboard. And yes, you could browse nearby places. But in 2009, nobody would have called Foursquare a "local search" app. And they certainly wouldn't have called it a premier place for "local discovery."
Like I said before, Foursquare hasn't just launched version 6.0, with its heavy focus on local search and recommendations, out of the blue. There has been a long march to this new vision of Foursquare. Let's look at that march, starting about a year ago when Foursquare unveiled the "all new Foursquare."
That update brought a completely redesigned friend feed to the mix - with larger photos, more information on tips, comments, and the ability to "like" individual check-ins. But the real work was done on the Explore tab. Foursquare integrated even more of their millions of data points to give users a better idea about what was going on around them, and why they should frequent nearby locations. The Explore tab began to notify users of nearby specials, "top picks" that ranked venues on the popularity in the Foursquare community. They added new categories to search like "food," "nightlife," and "trending," all of which relied heavily on you and your friends' past check-in data.
"This isn’t just a fresh coat of paint, it’s a whole new app. And, as such, it’s just the beginning. We’ve got lots more coming..." said Foursquare at the time.
Shortly after that, Foursquare updated their app to improve the map and give it even more search categories. Then, they introduced a new kind of rating for venues - a number between 1 and 10 that is based on user likes. Later, they added a "recently opened" category to the Explore tab. A few weeks after that, location pages were improved with larger, highlighted location photos. In the past couple of months, Foursquare crammed even more recommendations onto the Explore tab and bolstered the info on venue pages.
See what I'm saying? Foursquare has made tons of small tweaks leading up to this new Foursquare, one that truly looks and feels like a culmination of Foursquare's true goal of becoming a top local search and recommendation engine to compete with the likes of Yelp, Urbanspoon, and yes, Facebook.
Of course, Foursquare isn't abandoning the check-in. The check-in is one of the metrics that powers the service. Without it, the whole recommendation engine falls apart. That's why you'll see an ever-present check-in icon front and center at the bottom of your feed at all times.
To survive, Foursquare cannot simply be about the check-in. It has to be more. This update shows that it is more - a lot more. But whether or not users recognize this is left to be seen. You can grab the update today in the App Store and Google Play.