Blog Post

Foursquare's Crowdsourced Travel Guide — the Future of User Reviews?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Most Twitter and Facebook users have gotten used to asking their social networks for tips on which hot restaurants, bars and other spots are worth visiting. Now Foursquare and the Independent Film Channel have teamed up to create a travel guide using the same kind of crowdsourcing philosophy, providing a glimpse of what curated user reviews combined with real-time location can produce. The guide, which appears on the Foursquare website, includes recommendations from users of the location-based service as well as fans of the IFC, and Foursquare users who check in to more than three of the locations in the guide get a special badge.

The film channel and Foursquare asked users to submit their favorite restaurant, bar or other attraction that shared what the IFC calls its “off-kilter sensibility,” and then the channel chose the 100 best locations for the guide. In keeping with the IFC’s new tagline, “Always On. Slightly Off,” the guide is called “The IFC Always On. Slightly Off. Guide to America.” When users of Foursquare check in near one of the locations in the guide, a description will pop up with a suggestion that they visit the spot — a list that includes The Other Side Cafe in Boston and Cardullo’s chocolate shop in Cambridge, N.H.

The Foursquare-IFC guide is aimed at fans of the film channel’s alternative brand, but in many ways the guide is an example of how crowdsourced reviews could disrupt the business models not just of traditional review providers such as Michelin or Zagat, but also digital review-based services such as Yelp. Although the latter has added Foursquare-style check-ins in an attempt to keep pace with the location-based service, Om has noted before how the combination of real-time reviews — whether on Twitter or elsewhere –and the magic of location creates a potent combination that is difficult for many services to match.

Reading reviews of restaurants, bars, theatres and other services is something that most Internet users take for granted, whether it’s through Yelp, Urbanspoon or many other apps and services. But the killer feature for businesses that use these services is to reach someone when they are both motivated (i.e. hungry, thirsty or bored) and when they are nearby — and crowdsourced guides like the one that IFC and Foursquare have created give us a view of what that future might look like, with location front and center as part of the experience. The IFC guide also suggests what might be possible for a range of different brands that want to connect with their fans by aggregating their recommendations in a similar way.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Is Geolocation a Real Business or Just a Feature?

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Search Engine People Blog

9 Responses to “Foursquare's Crowdsourced Travel Guide — the Future of User Reviews?”

  1. Matt, great use of the Foursquare platform to promote a curated view of a city. As much as I want to go wherever the crowds go, most of the time I find it hard to reconcile my own likes with those of the masses. By creating a layer of curation on top of that and targeting a very specific audience, the chances that I will trust recommendations suggested by Foursquare are much higher, therefore increasing “conversion”.

    With reportedly one million checkins per day, Foursquare has a good reading of where people are across major cities. This information is already available through their API and many players are trying to figure out how to use it, ourselves included ( ). Curation certainly is one aspect that needs to be considered, but the other one is basic visualization. The list of venues as presented by the IFC page is simply too diverse to be able to act on it. Perhaps the next iteration will allow them to collect the top 50 places in a given city curated by a celebrity chef and put them on a map for easy consumption.

  2. Great article Mathew – what is special about this is that it is using the location service to create unique content which can become valuable in its own right. This is another step in the evolution of media AND location service models.

    –Ben Elowitz | CEO – Wetpaint

  3. LBS Crowdsourcing of Travel Itineraries… a glimpse of what the future holds.

    Matt, interesting post. Greg Linden ( cites a fascinating example of LBS crowdsourcing in a just published paper by a group of researchers at Yahoo. “The paper, ‘Automatic Construction of Travel Itineraries using Social Breadcrumbs,” cleverly uses the data embedded in billions of Flickr photos (e.g. timestamp, tags, sometimes GPS) to produce trails of where people have been in their travels. Then, they combine all those past trails to generate high quality itineraries for future tourists that tell them what to see, where to go, how long to expect to spend at each sight, and how long to allow for travel times between the sights…. The interesting idea in this paper is the use of billions of Flickr photos.” The original paper is at