Foursquare’s Crowley On Re-Inventing Local Search

Dennis-CrowleyFoursquare founder Dennis Crowley wants users to know that the company has moved away from the check-in, its former flagship service.

The location-based platform’s future now lies in technology that enables users to do personalized local searches and find their friends on any device.

“Our goal is to reinvent local search and local discovery,” said Crowley during a session at Internet Week New York. “So whether it’s on Pebble watch or Google Glass, or in your car, we’ve built this data and tech layer to power all that.”

As mobile devices have evolved, so have the ways that people engage with mobile offerings. Consumers increasingly use mobile apps for specific purposes – Yelp is where you go for restaurant recommendations, Instagram is where you share photos and Twitter is where you broadcast brief messages.

Foursquare acknowledged the shift and said it was simplifying its services. The company enhanced its check-in capability in a new app called Swarm, which it unveiled last week.

By opting in to sharing your location when you download the app, Swarm shares your general location with your friends without requiring you to constantly check in, making it easier to find nearby friends.

This frees up Foursquare’s app, which the company refers to as the “Yelp Killer,” to be a local search tool that serves recommendations tailored to your behavior and preferences.

Using the billions of data points that Foursquare has accumulated about users combined with other signals like lat/long data from ad requests, Foursquare can estimate an individual’s whereabouts and make recommendations based on his or her interests.

Foursquare is also focusing on its local search capabilities as means to attract advertisers. The company already offers several advertising tools, such as a self-service platform for local ads, and advertisers will eventually be able to serve targeted ads on Swarm based on your location, according to Crowley.

The location landscape has become more crowded since Foursquare was founded nearly five years ago, however. Facebook recently launched its Nearby Friends capability, which could provide more data for targeted ads. Google lets advertisers deliver ads tied to Google Map searches and Yahoo recently partnered with Yelp.

Crowley said he’s not concerned.

“Most of the local search tools are broken,” he said. “There’s a good chance everyone will get the same results when they should be tailored on whether you spend a lot of time in this neighborhood or haven’t.”

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