Foursquare’s Algorithmic Approach to Location vs. Facebook’s Social

Speaking at the ad:tech conference, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley offered a glimpse into the future of the service.

Customized Recommendations: Crowley discussed the possibility of a smarter algorithm that would make customized recommendations based on a user’s checkin history.

Brand Discovery: Building upon the idea of a smarter algorithm that would make recommendations based on where you’ve been, Crowley illustrated a future where brands would also be fused into that experience.

Compare this with Facebook’s announcement of Deals yesterday: Recommendations and Deal discovery will be based on Location Proximity and your Friends’ who enjoy deals.

Where have we seen this algorithmic vs. social approach before? 🙂

Also compare these quotes:


“We should be able to offer special deals that you may be interested in and we should be able to offer recommendations for the type of things you should do next.”


“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” he elaborates. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

Sound similar?

What does this mean?

Foursquare is taking a Googlesque algorithmic approach to location serendipity, while Facebook is focusing on its social aspect.

I think Foursquare is being cornered against a wall. Foursquare’s social graph is a hybrid one, incorporating friends from Facebook, Twitter, and other sources. With Facebook’s ubiquitous mobile platform unveiled yesterday, it has to one-up Facebook. Hence, it is turning to smarter algorithms, in typical Google fashion.

Will Foursquare face the same fate as other social startups thanks to Facebook? Time will tell.

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  • Anonymous

    people forget that twitter is thriving in a facebook world, so is google search, so is youtube(one would have expected facebook videos to kill/slow down youtube, but the opposite has happened), Quora is doing well too. I think facebook will not kill any good companies, the only company it has killed is friendfeed which it acquired.

  • Anonymous

    analysts are hyping facebook too much, I dont think facebook will end up being the next google. If you look at google, its most popular product after google search is youtube which it acquired and youtube has nothing to do with google core business of search, ad, apps. Facebook needs to come up with the 2nd act apart from social or acquire a 2nd act. And google’s android has even less to do with search, ad and apps. That is google’s 3rd act.

  • The problem with algorithmic is that it’s a *very* expensive way to do things. Google is *huge* and is barely as “intelligent” as a sea slug. Facebook, on the other hand, is made up of flesh and blood humans, working for the most part for free. I don’t see Foursquare winning this one.

    That said, I think Google Maps / Android will do well without the social component because they *have* the infrastructure, the data and the algorithms. And they have a pretty good head start. Facebook ought to be partering with Apple and Microsoft if they really want to take on Google in location.

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