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Foursquare, Twitter and the future of search

There have been a lot of reports in the past few days concerning Foursquare’s talks with the major search providers including Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The outcome of these talks and any subsequent deals could have a huge direction on the future of online search. Here are a few key facts that you’ll need to know at this point in time to be ahead of the game.

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a location based social networking tool that allows users to ‘check-in’ using their internet connection whilst out and about. Users can check in at locations, which can include businesses, and share their whereabouts with others by linking Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Foursquare also offers businesses the chance give special offers to Foursquare users, only available by checking in at a business venue.

Users can earn badges for certain actions within the Foursquare world, including multiple location visits and visiting specific location types, adding to the fun and gaming element of the tool.

What is Foursquare discussing with the search engines?

With over 2 million subscribers, Foursquare collects a large amount of data each day about the locations of Internet users across the globe. Any owner of such large amounts of information is always highly attractive to search engines  (remember how they all clamoured to work with Twitter?) and so the discussions will mostly focus on how the data can be used to provide a better online search experience and what this will cost.

What are the possible outcomes of this?

Foursquare hopes that it can do for locations what Twitter did for topics. The data it collects on users’ whereabouts can be anonymised and displayed to show trending venues. This could be extremely useful for breaking news and businesses looking to promote themselves by sourcing large crowds. Users would also be able to search for popular local venues.
It will be interesting to see which search engine signs a deal first, or if they all opt-in. I will also be curious to see how they plan to make the data they secure useful to individuals and not just businesses.

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