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Is Foursquare about to go 'mainstream' like Twitter before it? The Telegraph thinks so.

In terms of size, Foursquare is still just a baby. Its growth is impressive and it just surpassed 2m registered users, but in the overall scheme of things, that's still a relatively small number. But soon, Foursquare and Twitter may share a potentially important business accomplishment: deals with major search engines.

According to The Telegraph, Foursquare is negotiating with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! about search partnerships similar in nature to the ones Twitter previously signed with the same search engines. According to Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley, "Our data generates hugely interesting trends which would enrich search...We can anonymise data and use it to show venues which are trending at that moment."

Being able to track tending locations has understandable appeal. Location-aware search is increasingly important, and 'real-time' is too. If location-based services like Foursquare can help search engines determine 'what's happening' where and when, there are plenty of applications for search engines to experiment with. Someday, data from services like Twitter and Foursquare could be applied more broadly in the SERPs.

From this perspective, it's smart for search engines to ink deals with companies like Twitter and Foursquare. But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be cautious. Becoming too reliant on data supplied by third parties who charge for access to their data introduces some obvious business risk. And it means there will likely be some limits on how far search engines can go; after all, since they don't own the source of the data, they have limited control over how it's collected and delivered.

Case in point: when Google announced that it was buying ITA Software, it detailed why it didn't just license ITA's technology:

Why do you have to buy ITA Software, when you could just license their QPX service from them like other websites do?
We think we can make more significant innovations and bigger breakthroughs in online flight search by combining our engineering expertise with ITA Software's than we would by simply licensing ITA Software's data service.

A similar argument could be made when it comes to data from companies like Twitter and Foursquare. If it's as valuable as many believe it could be, licensing deals may not be enough. So should Google, Microsoft or Yahoo buy Foursquare (or Twitter)? According to some reports, Google and Yahoo have tried and either failed, or pulled back.

Which raises perhaps the most important point: if the data from services like Twitter and Foursquare proves to be as valuable as many believe it could be, one or more of the major search engines may have little choice but to try to make an acquisition offer that can't be refused. If the data, however, proves to be less valuable, Foursquare and Twitter may find that these licensing deals were ill-conceived in the long run.

The bets are lined up. Who will win? Only time will tell, but Twitter and Foursquare investors are clearly confident about their odds, and if they're right, it's bad news for the search engines.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 July, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2429 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Howard

A great move for Foursquare, they've got all the makings of a mainstream service

over 6 years ago

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Duncan Birch

nice post, It hink this brings up all sorts of questions. The reality is that I think with the Twitter deal surely only google really wins there, apart from some financial benefit that twitter would have got through the deal. Because lets be honest most Twitter users use twitter and are pretty much plugged in! I have never really benefited from any tweet results in the google serps, google is just hosing in Data that they can try and utilise. The only interesting bit is the introduction of the timeline for speicifc results but again thats not what I use google for I use it for search. It will be interesting to see what sort of information is displayed in the Search engines I am guessing that there will be some form of integration with google local and you can see specific Foursquare pin points with feedback, tips etc and perhaps how many people are checked in to that venue. I am hoping however the Search engines will not be giving away peronalised information cos that would be scary. Personally I hope foursquare doesn't do the deal I am not sure how much value it will add.

over 6 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

Interesting to see if Foursquare make it to the mainstream, we are certainly engaging with it for our clients.

over 6 years ago

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Bangalow Accommodation

Still huge privacy and security issues with FourSquare

over 6 years ago

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