You don’t have to be a Foursquare user to use Foursquare’s local search engine anymore. It’s open and live to anyone at foursquare.com/explore.
And, by the way, Foursquare spruced up the look and feel not long ago and it looks terrific.
I gave Foursquare Explore a pretty long writeup earlier this year when it moved from mobile devices to the web, and most everything I said then still applies:
- The search filters are great.
- Full-text search of tips is wonderful (lets you find relevant places when you search for things like “milk shake” or “burrito”).
- Using check-ins as a relevance signal should improve search results.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the big players make a run at buying Foursquare now, even if FSQ’s monetization efforts are still in their infancy. (Greg Sterling speculated not long ago that Marissa Mayer may want to buy Foursquare for Yahoo, which has let its once-excellent local search product fall by the wayside.)
Oh, and Greg S. also mentioned on his own blog something that I hadn’t noticed before: Foursquare is now showing a numerical score for every business in its system.
I haven’t seen Foursquare describe this new feature anywhere, but Greg had a call with them this week and explained it like this:
Those scores are the result of an algorithm that takes into account a wide range of variables and aggregated data: lists, check-ins, tips, likes, loyalty and so on. The key thing to note here, beyond the fact of the scoring itself, is that the scores are based not just on reviews or opinion but on real-world behavior. Thus the system really can’t be gamed.
I like the idea, but as a user, I’d prefer that all of those signals be combined into a more familiar five-point or five-star scale. Sigh.
In any case, here’s Foursquare’s lengthy announcement with details about how it generates its local search results. Good stuff.