What is Foursquare and How Does It Work?

Last updated: November 28, 2016 - 12:21pm EST

Have you ever had one of those days where you want to go out and do something fun, but you’re just sick of the same old thing? Or when you need to take a visitor to a great place, but you have no idea where to go or what they would like? Luckily, there's a website/app that helps you find all the best facilities around you, and can even predict the places you’ll love as you continue to use it. It's called Foursquare.com, but what exactly is it?

Foursquare is a website and mobile app that allows you to search for information on -- and reviews of --facilities and events in your current geographical area. It can also learn your preferences as you use it, and then predict the places you would like to go, no matter where in the world you find yourself.

How does Foursquare work?

Foursquare allows users to input both a city and keywords related to what they're looking for there into its search bar.  Users can then filter their search results -- and read reviews on them -- to choose a place to go to. Foursquare will also start to recommend places to you based on your previous searches.

Use the search bar to indicate what you are looking for (and where), and then scroll through the many results Foursquare will present to you. You can also filter those results to make your search more specific to what you’re looking for. Foursquare is great for researching local hotspots -- it may even help you find a place you may not have even known existed.

The Foursquare home screen and search bar.

Foursquare is also particularly useful because of its ability to learn about your preferences as you use it, and then actually predict where you would like to go. Simply enter a bit of information about your preferences at your own pace, and then look for the suggestions Foursquare makes for you. This is best utilized when you’re visiting (or moving to) a new city, as Foursquare can teach you about what places you might like in that city based on the places you like in your home city. Make sure you save places you love and add your preferences to make Foursquare work for you!

7 ways to use Foursquare to improve your life

1. Take a friend out to a great place they’ll love

If you have a friend visiting you from another city, you may want to take them out to a great restaurant or experience the local nightlife with them. By entering information about what you’re looking for into Foursquare, you can find the perfect place to take them and keep your hosting game on point!

2. Learn about fun activities to do in any city around the world

You can use Foursquare to research cities around the world, not just ones near you.  Learn the best places to visit and the best things to do in each city, right from the comfort of your own home. Use this to help plan vacations or day trips to new destinations.

3. Read the tips and reviews from other Foursquare users

Foursquare has a library of reviews and tips that users have shared on the website.  This lets you learn specific details about a place of business or an event before you go there. That way, you’ll never fall victim to misrepresentation, or be surprised by a business again.

4. Feel at home in a new city

Moving to a new city can be lonely, especially when you’re missing your favourite restaurant or city park. Foursquare will help you find new places to love, based on the places you liked in your old city (and beyond). You can find a new favorite spot in no time!

5. Find a place at home you never knew existed

You don’t always need to move to a new city to not know what’s around you. There could be great places just around the corner that you’ve never seen or heard about... but Foursquare has! If you let Foursquare know your preferences, it can find these places for you.

6. Utilize Foursquare Trip Tips

“Trip Tips,” one of the functions Foursquare offers you, allows you to share a trip you’re planning to a new city. Simply share the name of the city you're travelling to on other social media networks, and enter a bit of information about your trip.  Your friends and contacts can then share tips with you to help you plan the best trip ever!

7. Find something you need fast – on the go!

Download the Foursquare app so you can take it with you on the go. That way, when you’re trying to plan a group activity on the fly or craving a specific type of food, you’ll know what -- and where -- your options are.

History of Foursquare

Foursquare was launched in 2009 by founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai in New York City. It began primarily as a check-in app, where users let others know where they were and what they were doing. However, many other popular social networks (such as Facebook) have this function built into them now.  Foursquare had to expand its offerings and become more unique, which it did in 2014.

Now, Foursquare learns what kinds of places you love, so it can make suggestions on the best places to go in any city. Foursquare also changed its financial structure by launching "Foursquare Pinpoint" to collect user data for businesses and learn consumer habits. Foursquare also launched a companion app called Swarm, which allows you to compete with your friends to create more and bigger social meet-ups.

Is Foursquare safe?

Foursquare is as safe as most social media websites, so long as reasonable precautions are taken. Users should avoid sharing personal and financial information on the website, as this is never necessary to use the website or app. Sharing your current location constantly can also post a threat to your personal safety.

Some users do add nonsense ("spam") posts to the website, which are generally more of an annoyance than a danger.  Still, you should avoid clicking on links in user’s posts, as well as engaging in conversations with strangers who ask for personal or financial information. Also remember that anyone can join Foursquare and post on the site without verifying their identity or experiences; just because a user claims a business is safe or cheap doesn’t mean that it is.

How does Foursquare make money?

Foursquare makes money by allowing businesses to advertise on its website and mobile app; these advertisements target different users based on their interests. It also uses “Foursquare Pinpoint” to collect user data, which it then sells to businesses interested in learning about the demographics of their customers.

The app and website are both currently free to use. To learn more about the potential costs associated with Foursquare, considering checking out our article on whether or not Foursquare is free.

Foursquare competition

There are some great apps and wesbites like Foursquare out there that have other features that can help you find the best places around you. One that is very similar to Foursquare is LikeWhere.com, which asks you questions about the city you live in to predict where you would like to go in another city. TripAdvisor.com, though not used to predict places you would like to go, has an unparalleled library of reviews of businesses and destinations around the world. AroundMe.com, like Foursquare, helps you find places in your immediate vicinity quickly, so you'll always know where to go... even if you're currently on the go.

CitySocializer.com is an app like Foursquare that helps you to find the best social gatherings going on around you; it focuses on making face-to-face connections with other users in your city. Yik Yak (yikyak.com) is a social media app that connects with other users in your immediate area, so you can ask questions and learn about what’s going on around you. One more app out there like Foursquare is Smacktive.com, which helps you find individuals in your local area who like doing the same activities you like doing.  It then helps you arrange meetings with them, so you get to enjoy your hobbies while expanding your social life.

To learn more about any of these alternatives to Foursquare, check out our article on the best sites and apps like Foursquare.

 

That’s our introduction to Foursquare! In the rest of our Foursquare course, we’ll teach you about the potential costs associated with Foursquare, as well as help you decide whether or not Foursquare will be useful to you in our Foursquare review. We also have step-by-step tutorials with pictures on how to use the Foursquare website and how to download and use the Foursquare app.

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