Mobile

Foursquare reboots with a mission to destroy Yelp

Check-ins are out. Recommendations are in. The new Foursquare is finally here.

Today Foursquare relaunched its self-titled app and marked the end of a confusing, yet inevitable transition which saw the company split its location sharing and business discovery features into two separate services.

If you’re into check-ins, Foursquare’s Swarm app, which launched in May, is for you. If you want to find the best pizza in Brooklyn, you may want to give Foursquare’s new namesake app a try; it’ll be available on iOS and Android later today.

From the start, Foursquare’s transition was painful to watch. Although investors undoubtedly called for changes as the New York startup’s monetization efforts floundered, many existing users quickly lashed back. In the App Store, for example, recent reviews are so bad it’s as if a competitor’s marketing team was hired to write them. Colorful comments include: “hero to zero,” “messed with the best, will die,” and “give me back control, you f***ers.”

Lovely.

And yet, Foursquare had to change to survive. In the original Foursquare app — let’s call it Foursquare classic — monetization attempts proved unnatural. The company’s ad retargeting experiments in 2013, for example, were criticized by some in the tech industry.

Going forward, Foursquare took hints from Twitter and made the service far more brand-friendly. Where companies once awkwardly coexisted alongside a group of your closest friends, now a public follower model makes the whole thing feel less invasive.

foursquare-app

A cross between Twitter and Yelp

According to Foursquare vice president of product management Noah Weiss, Foursquare historically “had a friendship model. The new Foursquare is all about great recommendations,” Weiss explains, “and there you care more about the people who’s tastes that you trust. The new Foursquare has a follow model. In the future, it’s easy to follow experts and brands.”

Listening to Weiss, the new Foursquare sounds quite like a cross between Twitter and Yelp. More, from Weiss:

Because it’s all based on followers and it’s really based on “do you have tips that other people trust” it’s actually perfectly built for brands, and a lot of local publishers, and even celebrities that have tastes you might trust.

But, according to Weiss, Foursquare doesn’t have its own blue check mark for verified accounts. Instead, the company wants Foursquare users to build clout (note: clout with a “c,” not a “k.”) by leaving ratings and tips. With these actions, power users can build “expertise” and gain followers without having to share sensitive location data outside of their circle of friends. Again, that’s what Swarm is for now.

Foursquare’s end goal: to annihilate Yelp

Foursquare’s new pitch is simple: the self-titled app “learns what you like and leads you to places you’ll love.” The app now serves up custom recommendations based on the places you go (the app passively tracks this), the people and companies you follow, and your “taste,” a new feature which enables users to manually tell Foursquare their personal preferences with tags, like “great atmosphere,” “hipster,” or “spicy.”

Back in March, Foursquare chief Dennis Crowley aggressively declared that Google and Yelp are “incredibly broken.” Weiss put the comparison more delicately in a call with VentureBeat yesterday: “If all of our tastes are different, then why should we all get the same search results?”

Even in its official announcement blog post, Foursquare took a not-so-subtle shot at Yelp: “There’s no reason why we should all get the same recommendations when looking for a place to eat, drink or shop. Getting a one-size-fits-all list of places may have been innovative in 2006, but it feels downright antiquated now.”

Foursquare’s argument against Yelp is pretty convincing, too. It’s easier to trust recommendations and ratings from friends and experts than it is to skim through a list of random reviews.

Going forward, Foursquare’s role is finally clear. You can use Foursquare when you’re hungry and want to find the best restaurant nearby. And if you still like to check-in, you can use Swarm. If you don’t like the change, you’re out of luck.

More information:

Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtu... read more »

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44 comments
Michael Devellano
Michael Devellano

its bad they lost everything that was good and distinctive about 4square

Jeffrey Klein
Jeffrey Klein

Foursquare CEO is a shady character with zero integrity. I hope they fail and go bankrupt.

James Armfield
James Armfield

Foursquare was a game, this isn't a game. This is Failsquare. It went from never leaving my homepage, to the 2nd page of a folder on the last page on my iPhone.

Sohrob Tahmasebi
Sohrob Tahmasebi

They screwed up by going the two app route. It's annoying.

Seth Miller
Seth Miller

Please take note application developers & brand marketers, don't do this. Dumped FourSquare after they made the change, no plans on going back

Tenicia Carter
Tenicia Carter

Thank God for thee iPad . My badges are saved! :-/

Michael Stamper
Michael Stamper

On Yelp, the reviews from the users I "follow" always appear at the top of the list with reviews from my friends next. This really helps me quickly get to reviews from reviewers I trust. If the search results were customized like this based on a similar process it might be an improvement ... as long as I can still find new local places to try, too.

Karlyn Neel
Karlyn Neel

I think they have. I've deleted both apps.

Michelle McIntyre
Michelle McIntyre

From a user standpoint Yelp is much simpler to use than Foursquare. I stopped using Foursquare years ago because there were too many actions involved in looking studly there. I say "user" because I'm not doing PR for Yelp.

Catarina T Pereira
Catarina T Pereira

Gosto do logo, mas é tão diferente do outro... Vamos experimentar para ver se é melhor que o yelp. Vou ver o design.

João Garcia
João Garcia

Catarina T Pereira o logotipo do foursquare ta completamente diferente e agora é uma app mais parecida com o yelp

Barbara Kolbe Baker
Barbara Kolbe Baker

Instagram has partnered with Foursquare. That seems smart. FB could buy Foursquare to expand Instagram as a usual "local" business promotion channel on mobile. And Instagram has a great demographic.

Jeremy Reger
Jeremy Reger

Who took over VentureBeat today? seems very childish.. but anyways.. a super business is when you partner with Yahoo..

Jessie Anderson III
Jessie Anderson III

The new Foursquare is GARBAGE. Swarm = Garbage. Yelp has check in built in. Why do I need ?

Ahmed El Kalla
Ahmed El Kalla

Omar Maher Yusuf Mohammad Saber Moustafa Abou Samra

Andrey Golub
Andrey Golub

Stupid people...it didn't work once, it won't work again! While Yelp is a super business ;)

Matt Radack
Matt Radack

Their best chance to do this was 5 years ago, which is like 50 in internet years and 500 in app years.

Nas Nasir
Nas Nasir

Too late... Good luck on any future endeavors though.

Mat Siltala
Mat Siltala

Will never happen. They might have caused their own destruction with swarm & switchover & confusing everyone.

Jim Wolfson
Jim Wolfson

Sounds like all the names on the No-Fly list.