Foursquare Hints at Big Change

If you’re one of Foursquare's 20 million users, here's a heads up: Foursquare may be changing its business focus from check-ins to recommendations, reported on June 4.

A series of tweets from the location-based service has been hinting that an all-new Foursquare would debut this week—and a June 4 post sets a date: June 7. While the company reached a whopping 1 billion check-ins by September 2011, Foursquare’s CEO Dennis Crowley told TechCrunch in March 2012 that check-ins don’t seem to be the big draw anymore for users. The following online response to the news of the Foursquare shift seems to reflect that: “To me, Foursquare was like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. It was fun and it burned bright, but it ended. It taught me about check-ins, but it failed to educate me on why Foursquare check-ins were the best.”

Crowley said the era of becoming the “mayor” of a particular location is becoming passé; people are more interested in getting recommendations or finding friends, without checking in, he said. This has TechCrunch speculating that Foursquare might be trying to become “Yelp 2.0.”

In the past year, says, Foursquare has been moving in the direction of being a full-fledged social network by adding profile-page bios, restaurant recommendations and a searchable timeline. That’s not to say that check-ins will disappear. In July the company is expected to let merchants buy special placement for promotions of personalized local offers. All users will be able to see the specials, but must check into the venue to redeem them.

This upcoming revamp of Foursquare highlights the pressure tech company leaders are under as they try to evolve in order to survive on their own (or put themselves in a position to be acquired by Google or Facebook). Foursquare’s shift in focus could mean the difference between new users checking in, or current ones checking out for good.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01