At Le Web, Crowley hints at Foursquare's future in recommendations for everything

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At Le Web Foursquare Co-Founder and CEO Dennis Crowley expanded on the future direction for the company and product, signalling how check-in data is becoming less important than the recommendations it is capable of producing for users.

Interviewed on stage by blogger Robert Scoble, Crowley went in to the Explore feature of the product and how the sheer number of check-ins are adding to the recommendations Explore can give and feeding back into the other new feature, Radar. It’s this ability for to “technology to generate serendipity” that is at the core of what Foursquare is about he said.

And although “a lot of developers see the headline stuff like check-ins” plenty were “deciding our API is the best for location,” said Crowley, because of the social context behind the location data. “With a keyword and a user-ID you can target services more accurately,” he added.

Crowley also signalled that Foursquare would start to “push back”on getting more data out of third party app in return for the location data they are giving out. That could well signal a change in the relationship with developers.

One example of this is the Save to Foursquare button recently launched which could be used to ‘check in’ to an article about Munich in the New York Times, and have Foursquare buzz you when you check in to Munich airport as you land. “This idea of bridging the online world with the real world is the big idea here.”

He also said new users were using other people’s check-ins and not necessarily checking in themselves, which is changing the behaviour on the platform. Foursquare now has data on over one billions check-ins.

“Successful services change user behaviour. Tweeting about going to the gym just wasn’t something people thought about doing a few years ago. Likewise, we’re now seeing users check in just to get the recommendations and not sharing it.”

Crowley also said growing the company was a challenge, but it wasn’t about numbers but about “getting the ratio right” between product people, engineers and others.

The profitability question also does;t come up much internally, so much as monetisiation.

The future for Foursquare will also involved machine learning and big data as the startup Explore and Radar start to produce large amounts of data. “We’re making the app start to recommend the things you should be doing. We’re getting pretty good at it. This time next year, it should be pretty good.”

( Picture by Paula Marttila)