As has been made abundantly clear to me over the past two weeks, just about every location-based service is planning big things for the SXSW festival, which starts later this week in Austin, Texas. A few of the players have already started rolling out small changes, such as aesthetic upgrades. But a new, subtle update by Foursquare may have much larger implications.
As we noted last week, Foursquare has begun revamping the “history” area of its website. This is likely part of the larger goal to completely revamp the website itself (which isn’t very useful right now), and this data also ties in to the new Foursquare iPhone app set to launch later this week. But another update makes the history area show not only where you checked-in, and the category of the venue, but also who you checked-in with.
Basically, Foursquare has just turned on a new layer to your location history data. And this layer is very interesting because it goes back in time to show you who you were with at a certain venue when you were there.
Now, to be clear, it only shows you the friends you were with — not all Foursquare users. (But this means that they have that data as well.) Still, this data paints a clearer picture around your location history and potentially enriches your social graph. It’s one thing to say you’re “friends” with someone on a social network, but another to have checked-in to the same venue at the same time over and over again. Either you’re torturing yourself, or you really are good friends with that person.
This is a huge part of location as the bridge between social networking and actual social activity.
Foursquare has highlighted similar data for a while on the stats page, showing you who you check-in with most often. But this new history data takes that to the next level. And while the data right now only seems to go back to last December or so, Foursquare plans to implement it all the way back to 2003 — yes, 2003.
That’s because before Foursquare, co-founder Dennis Crowley ran a similar service called Dodgeball, which Google bought in 2006, and deadpooled last year. But users were able to import their old Dodgeball data before it went under, so Crowley now hopes to build a full location history social graph going back that far for long-time users.
“We gotta backfill some of the data (easy, but for those who imported their Dodgeball history before Google took the site down, we can give you a good idea of the trends around who you’ve been hanging out w/ going back to 2003.) It’s awesome awesome awesome,” Crowley writes in an email to us.
Something else Crowley is excited about is the potential for the visualization of this data. While this location history + friends isn’t yet in the API, it definitely will be, he notes. Depending on how that data is shared, that may raise some privacy issues, but Foursquare has made it clear that they’re well aware and very serious about the issues surrounding the sharing of location data.
Even on the most basic level, this new layer of location history data should be interesting to people. It’s great to look back and see not only where you were on a certain date, but who you were there with. That’s what social data is all about.