Foursquare Launches an API

foursquareIf you’ve been reading here lately, you’ll know we have a crush on foursquare for a number of reasons: it’s fun and engaging to play, it’s a new shiny object, it applies game mechanics to solve a problem, etc.

On Monday, they officially announced their API.

I had heard around the way that there was a buggy and totally undocumented API that people were using, and the announcement essentially confirmed this by including a list of existing applications already using said API.

There are some neat apps on the list, one of them is a WordPress plugin, which I won’t subject you to, and one, Last Night’s Checkins implements something I think foursquare itself needs to own.

It puts your checkins over a time period on a map.

This is a huge win for IRL tie ins with venues. Essentially, foursquare can implicitly plot my tendencies and spending habits, over time, which is fantastically useful for local merchants, whether I actually checkin there or not.

The venues I go to can reward my patronage. Venues nearby places I frequent can lure me in with deals.

This is the kind of advertising gold that sounds ludicrous in a business plan because somehow you have to get people to tell you this information. Foursquare skipped right past that huge obstacle and now has the ability to mine all these data and print money.

Make no mistake, geolocation is the next big thing. Cases in point: Twitter will be rolling out geo-tagged tweets very soon, Snow Leopard includes rudimentary geo-features that could easily be expanded, Facebook recently rewrote their terms, foreshadowing location-based features.

What remains to be seen is how people will react to updating location, which again, is where foursquare excels.

Anyway, every web app worth its salt has an API because as Tim O’Reilly said way back when, “Data is the Next Intel Inside“. Exposing one makes a huge amount of sense for foursquare.

They’re small and can’t possibly build every feature. They’re committed to aggressive crowdsourcing, empowering their users. Their user base is highly geeky and motivated, at least for now.

I’m excited to see the community build up around the foursquare API. Assuming Twitter is a good case study, there will be lots of great apps, many of them coming from the same people who built apps against the Twitter API.

Plus, as apps emerge, there will be those obvious ones that make the core service better, e.g. like Summize did for Twitter, that will lead to acquisitions.

Beyond the value of apps, I’m excited to see foursquare’s business model advance as venues tip to how valuable the data they collect are.

This is going to be fun to watch and even more fun to play.

What do you think? Find the comments.

Update: Another happy announcement came on Thursday as foursquare expanded the game to 50 new cities. Now, you can play in over 100 cities around the World, which will definitely make the API more attractive. Win!

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

5 comments

  1. Woohoo! As a non-developer and avid foursquare user, I welcome the opportunity to consume a host of foursquare-integrated apps.

    In addition to commercial implications for venues, there's potentially userful information for developers/marketers of new social web services. It'd be interesting to see a time-lapse visualization of foursquare adoption (Last Night's Checkins for Everyone, maybe?)…where do the new users crop up, do they cluster, what level of activity do they maintain, where does one get critical mass of users, etc. Who knows, maybe the conclusions are boring, but I'd watch a presentation on that topic.

  2. +1

    I'm hoping to see a bunch of great data visualizations. Imagine a Twittervision-type app where you can see checkins happen in overlaid on an area, or a heat-map (like you mention). That would be a great way to discover new places.

    I wonder how many people are using foursquare. Obviously, that's the key. I do wish they continue to open more visibility into other cities. The latest iPhone app update includes a “Friends in Other Cities” listing, but it's way at the bottom of the main pane.

    Speaking of which, how is adoption up there?

    Of course, as more people play, there will be concerns with noise, but ideally the game will continue to be engaging.

  3. Because of your interest in gaming and its possible applications in the enterprise, I wanted to make sure that you guys saw the recent InformationWeek article Full Nelson: A Web Presence Needs Sizzle, For Shizzle . Fritz Nelson spends some time talking about ways in which enterprises can engage their customers, and turns to the social media buzzworld for a couple of examples of engagement. Nelson then brainstorms how the ideas in FarmVille and Foursquare could be extended to enterprises (one example: allowing frequent fliers on particular airline routes to be recognized as “mayors” and could use this recognition to impart knowledge to others).

  4. Re. FarmVille, did you see Arrington's post in TC about his addiction to it? Pretty interesting study, since he started playing to expose the spammy nature of the game and got sucked into it.

    Also noteworthy about FarmVille, it has more users than Twitter.

    I read Nelson's post, all the while wishing he would get to a point, rather than passively bash the players of FarmVille and foursquare. As an aside, if you haven't touched and felt what you're reviewing, how much of value can you add?

    Anyway, his brainstorming is decent, although Matt Topper has a fully-baked frequent traveler app that he's been building in his head for years. The only new thing is mayorship of a route, which might work, but since the mayor is only one person and generally unattainable for the average traveler, you'd need more to make that game, erm, fly.

  5. Re. FarmVille, did you see Arrington's post in TC about his addiction to it? Pretty interesting study, since he started playing to expose the spammy nature of the game and got sucked into it.

    Also noteworthy about FarmVille, it has more users than Twitter.

    I read Nelson's post, all the while wishing he would get to a point, rather than passively bash the players of FarmVille and foursquare. As an aside, if you haven't touched and felt what you're reviewing, how much of value can you add?

    Anyway, his brainstorming is decent, although Matt Topper has a fully-baked frequent traveler app that he's been building in his head for years. The only new thing is mayorship of a route, which might work, but since the mayor is only one person and generally unattainable for the average traveler, you'd need more to make that game, erm, fly.

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