The popular location-based check-in service Foursquare today added a feature called “location layers”. In essence, it means that established brands –- at first, the Independent Film Channel and the Huffington Post – can use Foursquare’s “tips” feature to push the information they want to users. The bigger picture here is that this a step in Foursquare moving from a mere game to a location platform.

Foursquare users can check out the Tips section for a venue (typically used by Foursquare members to leave tips to other users, like recommending a dish at a restaurant) and see tips from not only other users, but from brands like IFC and the Huffington Post, as well as the History Channel, VH1, Louis Vuitton, Zagat, the Wall Street Journal and so on. According to the report on ReadWriteWeb, IFC and HuffPo are pioneering pushing content to users on Foursquare. If users opt-in to the service, they are pushed content from the publishers when they check in near, or in, a location that has information tagged to it.

Adding layers to a location-based service is something that is familiar from augmented reality, or AR, which is a technology that allows information to be displayed on digital views of the real world, such as using a cell phone’s camera and screen to view information on the shops inside a mall when pointing the camera at it, for instance. A Dutch startup called Layar claims to bring its version of AR to one-third of global smartphones by partnering with handset manufacturers. Layar’s app overlays buildings with graphics containing information relevant to them, like restaurant menus, movie screening times or real estate prices. In effect, Foursquare is bringing the same functionality to its service, though not –- at least not yet -– in such a visual manner.

Fiddling around with the service today, I was unable to have content pushed to my phone after checking in at San Francisco bar Zeitgeist, which is supposed to have associated IFC content tagged. Maybe I did something wrong, or maybe this is a question of less-than-intuitive user interface.

Conceivably, though, this could mean that Foursquare is becoming a publishing platform for brands and businesses. If the pushed content catches on with users, such as tourists visiting a city and looking for tips on things to do, there is no reason why that shouldn’t appeal to a wide swathe of content providers.

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