Can Twitter Help Power Foursquare’s Future?

24 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Can Twitter Help Power Foursquare’s Future?.

While users have long had the option of geo-tagging general places like cities or neighborhoods, the new deal will tap into Foursquare’s extensive database of landmarks, businesses and other venues to make those tags more specific and informative. Twitter on Monday announced that it has partnered with Foursquare, a startup focused on local business recommendations, to allow users to include their location in Tweets.

But six years after the social-location app’s hyped debut, it seemed like everyone in Austin last week was too busy Meerkating to even think about tapping a check-in button. With the feature, users will be able to choose from a drop-down menu of nearby places based on data provided from millions of user check-ins on Foursquare. With $121.4 million in venture backing (and $41 million in debt) but waning popularitywith users, the company has spent the last chapter of its life fighting the impression that it is struggling. Previously, location services in Twitter worked by detecting your coordinates based on your device sensors and assigning a spot based on those parameters. Foursquare, which started as a location-based social network, split into two last year with the launch of an app called Swarm, which houses the location-sharing features.

Twitter was rumored to be in talks with Foursquare regarding a partnership to do exactly this late last year, when Business Insider reported the geolocation services would arrive sometime as early as the first quarter of 2015. Location based tweets could do a lot to help Twitter extend its monetization and advertising options, as well as help onboard new users by providing them with location-relevant Tweets before they build their own timeline.

This will enable them to ID specific spot, according to TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington. “You can choose to add a location to your Tweets using Twitter for Android, Twitter for iOS, or other mobile applications. Foursquare is now working to tell the story of the data it has gleaned from seven billion check-ins at 65 million places. (It also has 70 million user-generated tips and 90 million “tastes.”) More than 85,000 developers have built products using Foursquare’s data.

That list included Instagram until about a year ago, when the photo-sharing app dropped Foursquare in favor of homegrown location data from its parent company, Facebook. Twitter has long supported the addition of location tags, but only with city or neighborhood-level locations like New York, NY or Financial District, Manhattan. The report, which the Business Insider quoted a source, which it claimed was familiar with the story at that time has now seen the light of the day with today’s tweet confirming plans to tag specific location to tweet. “Our goal is to take those learnings and scale them to the rest of the world,” the Twitter spokesman stated. “There are two key components to nail: 1) Understanding where content is coming from and where the conversation is happening: a country, a city, a neighborhood or venue. 2) Understanding places you care about, whether that’s the place you’re standing when you access Twitter, your home country, or some place else on the globe that’s captured your attention. The social media data business is a tricky one; many hopeful startups have excitedly gathered data from Tweets and status updates and Likes but struggled to figure out a compelling business use for it.

Organizing the world’s public conversations in real time can offer limitless opportunities.” Foursquare’s data will now enable Twitter to tag tweets to restaurants, stores, and potentially landmarks; which was different from what we had in the past where users were allowed to tag tweets with general locations. It’s not clear how comprehensive the location data will be at launch, but the Twitter support page detailing the new feature says, “In some areas, you have the option to label your Tweet with a specific business, landmark, or point of interest.” Sounds cool. Foursquare is different, Horowitz tells Fortune, because its data contains context and insights around a user’s preferences. “You can’t collect a bunch of data and sell it to people and have that be a business,” he says. “What you can do that can be valuable as a business is collect a lot of data and through some kind of very smart thinking and software, gain valuable insights out of the data.” Foursquare’s data partners include prominent social networks such as Google’s Waze, Yahoo’s Flickr, Twitter’s Vine, and Pinterest, and mobile systems like Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri. After the buzz of its initial launch died down and its competitors proliferated, the company soon found itself rethinking the location “check-in” model and all the cutesy gamification that came with it.

Instead, Foursquare would shift its focus to location discovery and recommendation rather than letting users duke it out to become the “mayor” of their favorite dive bar. But Foursquare founder and CEO Dennis Crowley wants you to stop thinking about Foursquare as a company that makes apps, and more like the “location layer of the Internet.” I know the history of our company is rooted in the check-in (and all the fun things we did to encourage people to press that “check-in” button), but remember, the big idea was never “build the world’s best check-in button.” The big idea was to create a system that could crawl the world with people in the same way Google crawls web pages with machines. Crowley has done things that might look crazy—turning down sizable acquisition offers and putting off life milestones (as articulated by a feature story in Fast Company)—to build his vision. He’s even built the same company twice. (The first iteration, Dodgeball, sold to Google and was eventually shut down.) Horowitz believes Foursquare can be a startup unicorn, the term for a private company valued at more than $1 billion. “They’re not a billion-dollar company yet. In addition to building the world’s most accurate place database, we’ve learned how to see buildings the way our phones see them — as shapes and sensor readings on the ground rather than boxes viewed from space.

It won’t disclose how many of those are active, except to say that last year’s app split send one third of active users to Swarm and one third to Foursquare, with one third using both. We’ve built software that can understand when people move through, stop within, and then move on from these shapes —whether the shapes are places, neighborhoods, or cities.

And we’ve built search and recommendation algorithms that get smarter as they learn about the shapes you choose to spend time in and the shapes you simply pass through. If it continues down this path, we might not be hearing much about Foursquare at next year’s SXSW, but more people will be using it than ever before.

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