One of the things that has always bothered me about location services was how fragmented they are. I’ve got maybe ten friends that regularly check in on Foursquare, another 15 (maybe) that check in with Facebook Places, a couple on Google Latitude, etc. All these services brag that, with this cool and innovative new focus on check-ins, the future is here; we can finally see where our friends are with just a few clicks. The irony: we don’t even know where (on the Web) they’re checking in. Today's announcement doesn't fix that immediately, but it hints that a remedy might not be too far off.
Foursquare announced Monday the launch of the Foursquare Venues Project, an API and mapping combination that gives third parties access to the more than fifteen million venues in Foursquare’s database.
The Foursquare Venues API, a subset of the three-month-old Foursquare APIv2, gives developers access to Foursquare venues and associated data, like check-ins, photos and tips. That means users on the end of a third-party application won’t have to actually authenticate with Foursquare.
In a way, it’s about freeing the data. As the company calls it, it’s one step towards the “harmonization” of location:
So, after a long week of launches, I hope this helps you understand our vision: to create a powerful platform for users of any application that helps share and find experiences in the real world and, also, to build a foundation for any location-based service to use the easiest and most comprehensive database of the real world in history.
Already on board with the Foursquare Venues Project are The New York Times, New York Magazine, Thrillist and MenuPages. Note that none of these are focused on location data exclusively.
On the other hand, Foursquare will probably have trouble signing up big players in the location space, from Facebook and Google to SCVNGR and Gowalla. Everybody wants to own location; but if half the battle is owning user check-ins, then the other half is owning the actual venue location data.
Last week, Foursquare made three big announcements in advance of SXSW: the launch of new apps for iPhone and Android, new specials for merchants, and a beta program made possible by a partnership with American Express.
The service boasts around 7.5 million users that have checked in over a half billion times.