As we reported over the weekend, Facebook is gearing up to launch a new “Places” tab on (at least) the mobile version of its site. This new area is likely to contain a list of venues close to your current location that you can check-in to. Yes, it’s basically what you do on Foursquare (and several other location-based services). That’s why Foursquare’s announcement today that they’ve made their own “Places” area “smarter” shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
On its blog today, Foursquare notes that users should see improvements to the venues that show up in their own Places area on their mobile apps (and through their API). Basically, they’re starting to look at venue popularity, time of day, and category to determine which venues to show a user. For example, if it’s noon on a weekday, a restaurant may be a more likely destination than a movie theater. This should help with the problems some users face not being able to find the appropriate venue at first glance because there are simply too many venues around them.
Or, as Foursquare puts it, “We have sophisticated algorithms that balance all of these factors to present you the best possible list of venues so that you spend less time searching and more time enjoying wherever you’ve checked in.”
If Facebook is prepared to launch its own Places area, you have to believe they think they’ve done a good job populating it with venues so people can use it at launch. Or maybe (and I’m just speculating here), Facebook is using Foursquare’s API to help populate these venues (as I noted, the new changes do affect the API as well).
Either way, if they’re directly competing or helping one another out, it’s a smart move for Foursquare to improve the check-in experience. Until we have a unified places database (which may never happen despite a lot of people working on it), the ability to pull up the correct venues quickly will be a differentiating factor between all of these location services.