Foursquare will track users who download its mobile app even if they are not using it, after a major update Wednesday. The New York-based startup that popularized the "check in," where users broadcast their location to others, says the new version of its app will determine the location of users who install it at all times, as it runs as a background process on users' smartphones.
Advertisers “might be really excited about getting their hands on [location] data,” CEO Dennis Crowley told the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog. Some analysts suggest Crowley is right on target: Research firm Berg Insight predicts advertisers will spend upward of $18 billion on location-based advertising by 2018.
Crowley said that the data Foursquare provides to advertisers will never include a person’s real name, instead offering data about trends, like an abundance of people who love Arnold Palmers and ribs in New York’s East Village. Foursquare will notify users of the change, as well as their ability to turn it off, in the new app’s “settings” menu.
Foursquare will also no longer contain the set of features that originally made it popular, including a social network that “gamified” how many times users visited a restaurant or bar. Users will no longer be rewarded with badges or be made “mayors” of frequented spots. Instead, those looking to “check in” to local businesses now have to download the company’s new app, Swarm, which offers an updated take on the process.
The main Foursquare app will instead recommend nearby businesses for users to visit, putting it into direct competition with services like Yelp and Google Now.