Foursquare offers more than just checking in

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A conversation I have had more than a few times is defending why I still use Foursquare, the mobile app most known for “checking in” to places.

When Foursquare launched in 2009, it was one of the first sites to try to “gamify” everyday activities.

By checking in each time you went to a new place, you accumulated points, pitting you against your friends in a contest to see who could accumulate the most points each week.

Checking in to enough places earned you badges. Nothing says cool like showing off your level 5 “crunked” badge for checking in to so many bars.

As the location wars between Foursquare and its rivals — Facebook and Gowalla, mainly — died down, the company began to shift its focus to becoming the app to find the coolest stuff.

Over the past year, the company has put a focus on its Explore functionality, which shows the user which restaurants and stores have heavy amounts of check-ins, are running specials or have been frequented by your friends.

When I recently took a trip to New York, the Explore feature was indispensable when it came to finding interesting things nearby.

Whether it was seeing the restaurants I had saved to a list or that three of my friends had been to a specific deli in Brooklyn, I never felt lost or without something to do.

Beyond the high-level view Explore gives you, the tips also are essential when visiting a new place. When I am trying a new restaurant, the first place I go is to the Tips section on the restaurant’s Foursquare page to see what people are saying about it. Usually, if there is a must-have dish, there are at least a few people recommending it.

Both Explore and Tips aren’t new features in the mobile space.

In fact, many of them are similar to what Yelp has been doing for years. I still use Yelp occasionally, but I don’t have the time or desire to read a longer review about how the food was good, but the waiter didn’t fill a water glass fast enough. Foursquare tips are to tweets what Yelp reviews are to blog posts.

If you haven’t given Foursquare a try in the past few years, try downloading it and see if it can find a way into your daily life. It’s available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone.

The beginning of 2013 seems to be about older startups resurrecting themselves in new, interesting ways.

If you asked me this time last year if I’d be back using Flickr and Foursquare on a regular basis, I’d have said no.

But here we are.

Justin Williams enjoys using and writing about personal technology. He can be contacted via his website at
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