Location-based check-in service Foursquare has brought its mobile recommendation feature Explore to the web, continuing a seemingly reverse pattern for the traditionally mobile-first company. Introduced last March in the mobile app as a major element Foursquare’s 3.0 update, Explore harnesses the service’s 1.5 billion check-ins as well as vast metadata from lists and tips “to provide personalized search for the real world,” the company said in a blog post.
Rebuilt for the bigger screen, the web version of Explore serves up results in an integrated map/list display that allows for deeper browsing in addition to the more serendipitous proximity search typical of the mobile app. Users can filter results based on where they have and have not gone, as well as where their friends have and have not gone.
The launch of Explore on the web marks a big step as the New York-based company transitions from a niche mobile application to a scalable hyperlocal business. In October, the company began to improve its web presence by (re)launching the save-to-Foursquare button, a widget that allows publishers to relate stories and reviews to places listed in Foursquare’s places database.
“The web-based version of Explore takes Foursquare beyond the ‘right here, right now’ use case,” the company’s PR director Erin Gleason told Street Fight in an email on Thursday. “It enables people to search for things anywhere in the world that would be interesting to them.”
The company appears to have struck a good balance between social search and local discovery in the web version. The product avoids leaning too heavily on generating results by analyzing social connections (a problem that has vexed other location-based social recommendations ventures) without pushing too far into Yelp’s domain of business listings.
“I would say Explore is a bit of both,” Gleason explained when asked whether the company considered the product more of a social recommendation or local search tool. Gleason avoided labeling explore “social search,” opting instead to describe the tool as “personalized search for the real-world,” a phrase used in the company’s post about the announcement.
What the web version executes most successfully is in making Foursquare’s extensive user-generated content consumable through a single keyword search. Over the past 9 months, Foursquare has created an ecosystem of users, brands, and developers to generate and structure location-based content without the massive costs associated with scaling hyperlocal information. And, as name-address-phone (NAP) information becomes increasingly commoditized, local search will be less about listings management and more about original content, leaving Foursquare sitting pretty and the Yelps of the world scrambling to catch up.
Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.