Watch out Yelp, Foursquare adds ratings with social signals for venue discovery

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“Location” is quickly becoming the only difference between Foursquare and Yelp, and a recent iOS upgrade from Foursquare focuses on this. The social venue discovery service is taking a alternative route from its counterpart and integrating social signals to create its first ever rating system. And unlike Yelp or Google Local, Foursquare is using a different type of rating to best represent “how much people love” retailers and outlets.

In the Explore tab, you’ll notice a square green box with a number between 1.0 and 10.0. Foursquare isn’t assigning a number based on just customer reviews: Venues are assigned a score that Foursquare believes best represents the restaurant according to the social signals that matter. Foursquare explains the types of variables that it looks at in its blog post: “We look at signals like tips, likes, dislikes, popularity, loyalty, local expertise, and nearly three billion check-ins from over 25 million people worldwide.” In essence, it takes more than just a good review to garner a high Foursquare rating. The number of times visitors have returned to a venue, who among your Foursquare friends have visited it, and local expert reviews are factors that dictate the score.

Eventually, with more check-ins and searches on Explore, Foursquare explains that it can get a good idea of what places are the most popular. For example, we noticed that the results that surfaced in the Explore results would change based on the venues that we “Liked” or how other users were interacting with a location’s page in real-time. 

Foursquare’s rating system also appears on its desktop app. We did notice, however, that many venues didn’t have ratings accompanying their profile pages.

After pivoting, Foursquare has been undergoing some drastic upgrades that step on Yelp and Google Locals’ toes a bit. For instance in the updates preceding this, Open Table, an existing Yelp partner that power’s the review site’s in-app reservations, announced that it would now be doing the same on Foursquare.

Foursquare also recently redesigned its desktop app, made to resemble a venue search engine, to help all users (including users that haven’t signed up for an account) “find great places near you.” Users can find places to eat, shop, or sights to see based on specified locations even without signing in. Of course logging into your account would be recommended for the social aspect of the recommendation engine to work as intended.