Foursquare in talks with search engines over data partnership

July 19th, 2010 by Chris Hogg Leave a reply »
The company behind the social “check-in” application Foursquare says it’s now in talks with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo about a data partnership. Foursquare says check-in data could help search engines enhance results.

Foursquare is a location-based social network used on mobile devices. Members of the service launch an application or send a text message when they arrive at a venue or destination and click on a “check-in” button. The more a user checks-in to various locations, the more points he or she is awarded. The user also unlocks “badges” for special activities and can become the “mayor” of a venue if they check in there more often than others.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley says he has been speaking with “everyone” in the search space including big companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, about a possible data deal. “Our data generates hugely interesting trends which would enrich search,” Crowley said. “We can anonymize data and use it to show venues which are trending at that moment. Twitter helped the world and the search engines know what people are talking about. Foursquare would allow people to search for the types of place people are going to – and where is trending – not what.”

According to the Telegraph, big search engines deny they’re in talks with Foursquare, but also refused to provide statements to media inquiries.

Foursquare has not indicated when a deal may be inked with search partners, but Crowley said the company is excited about its ongoing discussions with “a lot of different potential partners” who could benefit from Foursquare data.

When asked to comment about the possibility of joining forces with competitor Gowalla, Crowley told the Telegraph, “We are more social than Gowalla and ultimately have different visions moving forward. They are excited about different things.”

Crowley created an earlier version of Foursquare called Dodgeball which was acquired by Google in 2005 and shut down in 2009. Crowley says he remains close with “the guys at Google” and he currently employs a few Google employees.

Foursqure boasts more than two million members and recently finished a $20 million investment round by Silicon Valley venture capital company, Andreessen Horowitz. Foursquare is now valued at $95 million.

Foursquare’s potential data deals are similar to Twitter’s first commercial agreements in which the company decided to sell data to help search engines keep track of the real-time Web.

As critics point out, it would be a big deal for Foursquare if it landed agreements with big search engines, but it may still be too early to pull out the bubbly to celebrate. “It’s an attractive idea in theory, though it’s difficult to see this data being widely useful just yet; Foursquare’s two million users are impressive, but not enough to shed much light on what places people in general are going to,” writes Nick Saint of Business Insider. If search companies throw much money Foursquare’s way, it will be a bet on the startup’s future.
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