Foursquare made two announcements this week that, on the surface, may seem like small potatoes when compared to the likes of the Facebook Paper & Lenovo/Motorola Mobility/Google stories; but the reality is, Foursquare’s updates say a lot about their understanding and footprint in local mobile space.
Foursquare Maps Become More Local
First, Foursquare casually mentioned that they had worked with friends at Mapbox to give their maps “a new look” on the web. Roughly three-year-old Mapbox is a Washington, DC and San Francisco based operation made up of dedicated cartographers, data analysts, and software engineers. Mapbox boasts quite the portfolio having worked on mapping features and functionality for Hipmunk, Evernote and now Foursquare.
For foursquare, this new look is much more than aesthetics like color and typeface, though. In their own words:
“One of the more interesting aspects of designing a custom base map is our ability to customize the information hierarchy, to highlight the most important information for users at each given zoom level. This map more prominently features the neighborhoods and local landmarks (important POIs), providing a more helpful point of reference. A slight decrease in the density of road labeling helps maintain this hierarchy.”
By customizing the hierarchy of information within the map and featuring neighborhoods and landmarks as benchmarks rather than the more traditional use of roads or other mundane infrastructure as points of reference, Foursquare is demonstrating that they have a keen understanding of how consumers are actually using maps today -- that is, determining how location figures prominently into someone’s social and interest graph rather than just as a physical point of reference.
Use Foursquare to Order from Local Restaurants
Foursquare’s second update, the integration of GrubHub Seamless into the Foursquare experience, demonstrates yet another way in which the company can extend it’s reach even further into the local and small business sphere. The partnership brings food delivery services from the over 20,000 restaurants covering hundreds of U.S. cities that fall under the combined GrubHub Seamless umbrella to U.S. Foursquare users.
Rather than going head-to-head with the takeout and delivery service as LivingSocial attempted to do in 2012 (and we all know how that played out), Foursquare understands that by partnering with local businesses (or other service providers connected to local businesses) they are becoming even more deeply entrenched in that location layer of the Internet which they ultimately want to own.