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NEW YORK — Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley describes his company’s product as the next generation of mobile search — one that trumps services like Google and Yelp by using data that’s more relevant to your life.

“You can call it recommendations, you can call it mobile search … [but] let’s make this social, crowdsourced map of the world, and let’s use that to tell every single person about the interesting things around them that they would otherwise miss,” said Crowley in conversation with GigaOM writer Mathew Ingram at the Structure Data conference today.

Google and Yelp are “incredibly broken,” he said, because they don’t take your personal experience into account — or the experience of your friends and like-minded strangers.

“We’re getting very, very close to making that happen.”

A big focus for Foursquare going forward is passive engagement: It aims to serve up relevant recommendations based on your context — current location and known preferences — without you having to engage directly with the app. Crowley said Foursquare continues to iterate on a version of the service that can sense when you walk into and out of an area, sending folks contextual recommendations they’ll (hopefully) find useful.

“This is the thing that makes Foursquare kind of magical,” said Crowley.

With over 45 million users and 5 billion total check-ins, Foursquare relies on an ever-growing “mountain of data” to enable that functionality. It crafts custom geofences based on people’s check-ins — the company can tell when people walk into a fence, how they spend time in a fence, and when they walk out of a fence; then it uses that data to facilitate location discovery.

There’s a potential “creep-out factor” there, admitted Crowley, but he’s not worried about it as long as the company provides substantial value to its fanbase.

“When you can ping people when they go to a restaurant and tell them what they might want to order, for example, that is worth that trade-off,” he said.

“I always think people misunderstand a lot of the stuff Foursquare is doing. … What does it look like if we didn’t need people to have the check-in button? The point of the company was not to make a killer check-in button, it was to tell people about the world around them.”

Stay tuned to VentureBeat for more live coverage from GigaOM’s Structure Data conference.


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