The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Foursquare

Facebook picks up team behind location-sharing service Gowalla


The team behind Gowalla is going to Facebook.

That's the upshot of a blog post from one of the company's founders, Josh Williams.

Like the more-popular Foursquare, Gowalla is a mobile application that lets people share where they are and what they are doing with friends by "checking in."

Facebook confirmed that it's hiring Gowalla co-founders Williams and Scott Raymond, along with "several other members" of the Gowalla team. They'll move to Facebook in January, joining its engineering and design teams. Facebook did not identify which product or products the Gowalla group would work on.

The move gives Facebook an injection of top engineers as it competes for talent with other tech giants such as Google and Apple and startups such as Square. Facebook said last week it was opening an engineering office in New York to attract engineers. And Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook plans to hire thousands of employees in the next year.

Williams said the talks with Facebook began after the F8 conference in September. For those keeping track, that was one year after Foursquare decided not to sell out to Facebook, opting instead to stay independent -- and pursue a truckload of cash from venture capitalists.

A CNN report Friday prompted a weekend of fevered speculation over whether Facebook was buying Gowalla.

But in moving to Palo Alto from Austin, Texas, the Gowalla team won't be packing up the Gowalla service or its technology. Instead, the service will be wound down early next year, Williams said in his post.

"We're sure that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time," a Facebook spokesman said in an e-mailed statement.

Gowalla was one of the pioneers in the location-based sharing space. Both Gowalla and Foursquare launched in the same week of 2009. Kara Swisher dubbed the company "Not Foursquare." As she rightly points out, the company had changed tactics several times and was for sale for some time.

Clearly it's not the way Williams and his team had hoped things would turn out. But working for Facebook, which is on the verge of a $100-billion initial public offering, is surely a nice consolation prize.


Attention Facebook: Foursquare is still going places

Foursquare stays independent, raises cash to fuel expansion

Is Facebook Places a Foursquare killer? Dennis Crowley isn't worried

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Mark Zuckerberg at a product unveiling at Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters in August 2010. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters 

Foursquare launches 'Save to Foursquare' and 'Follow' buttons


Foursquare launched its "Save to Foursquare" and "Follow on Foursquare" buttons Wednesday in an effort by the New York company to get users to integrate what they do on the Web with what they do in the real world.

The Save to Foursquare button is aimed at online publishers and can enable publications to relate stories and reviews to places listed in the Foursquare app.

"For example, from a user perspective, if the L.A. Times were to use this feature, and I'm on the L.A. Times website and I'm reading a review of a new sushi place at LA Live, then I can click the Save to Foursquare button from the review online and that sushi place will be added to my to-do list on Foursquare," said Jonathan Crowley, who oversees Foursquare's partnerships with media companies. "And then when I'm in L.A. near LA Live and I'm looking at my to-do list, I'll see that sushi place on my list and the L.A. Times review would show up when I am looking at that sushi place in the app.

"So I could go back and read that review if I wanted to remember why it's on my list in the first place. And all of this would take place with the publisher's logo and branding."

As of now the L.A. Times isn't using the Save to Foursquare button, but Crowley's hypothetical example went into practice Wednesday with launch partners such as Frommer's Travel,, New York Magazine, Time Out NY and Time Out NY Kids, Time Out Boston, Time Out Chicago, and CBS.

CBS' use of the Save to Foursquare button is something that Crowley said he is particularly excited about because it's a move many people wouldn't expect, he said.

"We wanted to bridge the gap between what you're reading and watching online, and what you go out and do in the real world," Crowley said. "A lot of people don't look at CBS as a local brand, but if you think about it, there are all of these markets out there that have local CBS stations and they're producing a ton of locally focused content, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

"The fact is that the best content creators, the places that know cities the best, are publications like newspapers and magazines and local TV stations. And now we can connect the work all of these publications are doing with what we're doing on Foursquare very easily. It's something we've been working on for a while now."

The Follow on Foursquare button enables anyone with a website to allow Foursquare users to follow that person or business on Foursquare with a simple click, similar to Twitter's follow button, he said.

"The Follow button is even easier to put on a website," Crowley said. "With the Save to Foursquare button, a publisher has to structure the location data of what they're writing about in a certain way. With the Follow button, it's as easy as copying code from our website over to your website. Anyone can do it."

When a person follows someone or something on Foursquare, they'll see that person's or brand's tips when they check in at a location and they'll see lists of things to do by who they follow as well, he said.

"It's all the same as when you've followed a person or a brand on Foursquare before, but now you can follow someone you see on the Web without having to take your phone out of your pocket and go looking for them," Crowley said.

The company also launched a redesigned developer website Wednesday that should make it easier for third-party apps to build on what Foursquare has built and has coming up.

"I think a lot of people look at us as a 'check-in service,' but it's so much more than that," Crowley said. "It's about exploring your city, having a travel guide when you're in a new city, getting brand or friend recommendations wherever you go -- and all of this just adds to that.

"We've got a very long product road map, and we're focused on building more of these types of tools that make it easier for people to explore what's going on around them."


Foursquare has more than 10 million users

Foursquare reaches 1 billion check-ins [Video]

Foursquare Radar leverages Apple iOS 5 with new discovery features

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles+

Image: A screen shot of the Save to Foursquare button on Credit: New York Magazine / Foursquare

Foursquare Radar leverages Apple iOS 5 with new discovery features

Foursquare Radar

Foursquare on Wednesday introduced Radar, a new feature built into its iPhone app that will allow the New York company to introduce capabilities it had previously only dreamed of.

Most notably, Radar will push Foursquare from not only being a check-in centric app but also toward being an app that also alerts users of places, people or things they might want to visit near wherever they are at that moment.

Radar (if a user decides to activate the new feature) does this by using the location tracking and geo-tagging features built into Apple's iOS 5 mobile operating system found on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

"We've always felt that Foursquare is about experiencing the world around you, and what's exciting about Radar is you can use Foursquare without having to actually pull your phone out of your pocket," Alex Rainert, director of product at Foursquare, said in an interview.

With Radar on, Foursquare "can remind you and say 'Hey, you're near that burger shop you wanted to try,' or 'You're near that art gallery your friend was talking about.'"

Foursquare's Radar feature hit i-devices Wednesday in an update to its iOS app.

"We think Radar is a really big step for Foursquare," Rainert said. "It's one of the things that really is at the core of where we see Foursquare heading in the future."

Among the other things Radar can do is notify a user whenever they're near a location where three or more of their Foursquare contacts have checked in.

"It's about getting you the right content at the right time without having to change your behavior," Rainert said. "You can get content to a user before they even know they want it."

Users can also use Radar to follow a list, such as U.S. Soccer's list of places around the U.S. to watch its games, or create their own lists and Foursquare will push a notification to let a user know they're near a place on the list.

Foursquare app iconsOf course, if a user doesn't want any of these features they don't have to use them, and Radar can be turned off or on whenever the need arises, Rainert said.

"It's always something you can turn on or off," he said. "We're excited to see how people respond to Radar. There will be some fine-tuning to do over the next few weeks since this is all so new and really just some things we couldn't quite do before."

Another change in the new Foursquare app, albeit a much smaller change than Radar; the ball in the app icon is now green instead of purple.


Foursquare says it grew 3,400% in 2010

Foursquare has more than 10 million users

Foursquare reaches 1 billion check-ins [Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: Screen shots of Foursquare's new Radar feature on an Apple iPhone. Credit: Foursquare

'Two and a Half Men' star Ashton Kutcher promotes start-ups

Aston Kutcher Ashton Kutcher, who plays a tech investor in real life and on television, used a laptop covered with start-up company logos in the latest episode of CBS' "Two and a Half Men."

One of the start-ups' chief executives, Foursquare's Dennis Crowley, who counts Kutcher as an investor, noticed.

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco this month, Kutcher talked about playing his TV character, Walden Schmidt, an Internet billionaire who sold his company to Microsoft and now backs other entrepreneurs.

During the interview, Kutcher mentioned that he had covered his character's laptop with stickers of his "dream portfolio" companies but CBS balked at giving exposure to firms that hadn't paid for the privilege.

Guess CBS had a change of heart.


Ashton Kutcher talks "Two and a Half Men" and tech investing

Ashton Kutcher: Entrepreneur, investor

Star investors (and other stars) come out

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Dennis Crowley's screen grab from "Two and a Half Men."


Foursquare reaches 1 billion check-ins [Video]


Foursquare has hit yet another milestone -- 1 billion check-ins.

The location based social network, which enables users of the Foursquare mobile app or website to check in at real-world concert venues, stores, workplaces, restaurants or just about any other spot imaginable, said in a blog post Tuesday that it hit the 1-billion mark sometime last week.

The New York-based start-up compiled a video that it says displays what a week of Foursquare check-ins looks like.

In June, Foursquare said it had raised $50 million to help it build products and gain more international users. The company also said that month that it had more than 10 million users.

In March, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley said the social network saw about 2 million check-ins per day. For all of 2010, Foursquare recorded 381,576,305 check-ins at locations worldwide.

Foursquare's "A week of check-ins on the path to 1-billion" video is below.


Foursquare says it grew 3,400% in 2010

Foursquare has more than 10 million users

Foursquare raises $50 million in new funding

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screen shot of a video depicting a week of check-ins at locations around the world using the location-based social network Foursquare. Credit: Foursquare via Vimeo.

Foursquare to offer deals from LivingSocial,, others

Foursquare is looking to become more than just an app for a quick "check-in" at a favorite restaurant or for browsing to see where friends have been lately, and it's doing that by becoming a portal for daily-deals services LivingSocial and's Deal of the Day.

The New York start-up -- which recently raised $50 million, passed 10 million registered users and inked a deal with American Express -- is expanding its "specials" feature to include "deals."

Foursquare specials Foursquare specials allow businesses to give discounts or free items that are usually tied to a user's activity in the app. For example, the "mayor" of a location -- the person who checks in the most --  might get a free drink at a pizza parlor.

The addition of deals will enable users to get "deep discounts that you buy ahead of time," Foursquare said in a blog post announcing its partnerships in the new feature.

LivingSocial, a daily-deals website that may be preparing to file a $1-billion IPO soon, will offer group-buying discounts through Foursquare, as will BuyWithMe and the AT&T-owned Deal of the Day service, "with 50% off their daily deals" in Atlanta, Los Angeles and the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, Foursquare said.

Gilt City will offer "exclusive menus and tickets to sold-out shows," and Zozi will offer "unique experiences and activities like moonlight kayaking, cycling and wine tasting, and shark diving," Foursquare said. Users will start seeing the deals show up this week.

What deals a Foursquare user is offered in-app will depend on where a user checks in and what friends on the service are doing too.

If users find a discounted item they want to buy, they'll be able to do so from within the Foursquare app or while surfing using a credit card.

For now, the deals are available only in Foursquare's BlackBerry, Android and iOS apps in the U.S., Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But more deals and countries will be added soon, Foursquare said.


Foursquare raises $50 million in new funding

LivingSocial reportedly preparing for $1-billion IPO

T-Mobile launches More for Me daily-deal app for Android

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: Simulated screen shots of deals offered within the Foursquare app. Credit: Foursquare

Foursquare raises $50 million in new funding


Foursquare on Friday announced that it has raised $50 million in funding that will help the "check-in" app maker expand internationally and build out new products.

"The thing that's most exciting is that we think we're inventing the future here a bit," Dennis Crowley, Foursquare's co-founder and CEO, said in an interview. "We're doing things nobody has really done before, and to be able to raise this amount of capital will really allow us to look at the white board and accomplish the goals we have written up there -- things we've been wanting to do for awhile now."

The funding is the latest announcement this week for the New York start-up, which also passed 10 million registered users and inked a deal with American Express.

Foursquare's collaboration with the credit card company will allow users to tie their activity in the Foursquare smartphone app to their American Express accounts and get discounts on their monthly statements when they both check in and buy things using their AmEx card at select retailers nationwide.

Crowley said that one of the more immediate uses for the funding would be hiring engineers in New York and San Francisco who wouldbe tasked with continuing to build out Foursquare's existing services -- such as the Foursquare Merchant Platform, which allows businesses to offer discounts to Foursquare users and gives them data on when people check in at their business and how often.

"The Foursquare Merchant Platform is used by more than 400,000 merchants, and there's a lot more room to grow there," Crowley said. "About 50% of our users are coming from outside of the U.S., and we believe there's a lot of room to grow there too. Right now we're seeing a lot of traction in Brazil, a little bit in India and Russia, and we want to keep that going."

To maintain such momentum -- in the face of challenges from smaller start-ups like Gowalla and tech giants Google and Facebook -- funding is crucial, but $50 million should be enough to achieve what the company has planned, Crowley said.

The latest funding round was led by Andreessen-Horowitz, with contributions from O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital.

"The investors who stepped up in this round, they've all invested in us before," he said. "It's a big vote of confidence from our existing investors in what we're doing as a company. They believe in what we're doing, they're showing us that and they're really giving us the resources to keep doing what we're doing."


Foursquare has more than 10 million users

Foursquare says its business grew 3,400% in 2010

About 1 in 5 smartphone owners use location-based check-in apps

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO of Foursquare, presents an award at the 15th annual Webby Awards in New York on June 13, 2011. Credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Foursquare has more than 10 million users


Foursquare has surpassed the mark of 10 million users this month, which the location-based social network announced Monday in the form of a large infographic highlighting a few figures.

"One of the most amazing things about building Foursquare has been seeing a tool we designed for our friends turn into something now used by over 10,000,000 people," the New York start-up said in the graphic. "And as our community grows larger, we get to build things that start to fulfil our larger vision for the future."

The maker of the "check-in" app wouldn't say just what those things were, but it said to "stay tuned for much much more."

According to the Foursquare graphic, since the company's founding in March 2009, there have been:

-- 4.7 million check-ins on Main Streets across the U.S.

-- 169 countries visited by U.S. users

-- 358 million check-ins outside the U.S.

-- Check-ins at 1,105 beer halls in Germany

-- Check-ins at 6,230 sake bars in Japan

-- Check-ins at 225 weddings at city halls

-- 1,602 birth announcements on hospital check-ins

Old Navy, Bank of America, 7-Eleven, Home Depot and Target are among the most popular business chains in the U.S. to check in at, the Foursquare graphic said.

4sq 10 million graphic


Foursquare says it grew 3,400% in 2010

Attention Facebook: Foursquare is still going places

About 1 in 5 smart-phone owners use check-in apps

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: The Foursquare app running on an Apple iPhone. Credit: Jeffery Simpson via Flickr

Image: A screen shot of part of the Foursquare graphic celebrating 10 million users. Credit: Foursquare

About 1 in 5 smart-phone owners use check-in apps; Facebook top check-in service, study finds


About one in five smart-phone owners use check-in services such as Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places, according to the research firm ComScore.

In a study on the location-based social networking apps, ComScore found that about 16.7 million mobile subscribers in the U.S. used the check-in services on their phones in March 2011, representing about 17.6% of total smart-phone users.

ComScore also found that users of check-in services also displayed a "high propensity for mobile media usage," pulling up retail websites and shopping guides on their smart phones and tablet computers.

"Although still in their relative infancy, location-based mobile check-in services are seeing rather impressive adoption among smart-phone users," said Mark Donovan, ComScore's senior vice president of mobile. "The ability to interact with consumers on this micro-local level through special offers, deals and other incentives provides brands with the real-time opportunity to engage consumers through their mobile device."

Facebook Places is the most popular check-in service, said Sarah Radwanick, a ComScore spokeswoman.

"Facebook is the most popular social network and with people already using it for other things, it's really easy for them to check-in at a location," Radwanick said.

Of those who ComScore found to be using check-in services, 60% were between the ages of 18 and 34.

Almost half, 46.4% of check-in users had full-time jobs, which is slightly less than the percentage of total smart-phone users in the U.S. who are also employed full time -- 53.3%, ComScore said.


Foursquare says it grew 3,400% in 2010

Neer is location technology for those who don't want to overshare

Facebook apps may have leaked millions of users' personal data to third parties

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screenshot of the Gowalla iPad app. Credit: Gowalla apologizes for multi-day cloud computing outage

Lk0l3ync issued an apology Friday for its multi-day cloud computing outages last week.

The outages, which struck April 21 and ran through Sunday, left many popular social media sites shut down while the Seattle-based company worked to get its Amazon Web Services servers back in order.

Amazon's apology came at the end of a 5,679-word letter that explained what caused the temporary failure and said affected customers would have a 10-day service credit automatically added to their accounts.

"Last, but certainly not least, we want to apologize," Amazon's Web Services unit said to conclude its letter.

"We know how critical our services are to our customers' businesses and we will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to drive improvement across our services. As with any significant operational issue, we will spend many hours over the coming days and weeks improving our understanding of the details of the various parts of this event and determining how to make changes to improve our services and processes."

Among the companies affected by the outages were widely used websites and Web-based services such as Foursquare, HootSuite, Reddit and Quora.

At the root of the outage was a incorrectly performed network change "as part of our normal AWS scaling activities" at a data center in northern Virgina, Amazon said.

"The configuration change was to upgrade the capacity of the primary network," Amazon said in the letter. "During the change, one of the standard steps is to shift traffic off of one of the redundant routers" to allow the upgrade to take place.

But the "traffic shift was executed incorrectly and rather than routing the traffic to the other router on the primary network, the traffic was routed onto the lower capacity redundant" network.

That move not only resulted in a downed primary and secondary server network, the letter said.

"Traffic was purposely shifted away from the primary network and the secondary network couldn't handle the traffic level it was receiving," Amazon said.

Next up is a self-audit of Amazon's network change process, as well as a planned increase in "automation to prevent this mistake from happening in the future. However, we focus on building software and services to survive failures. Much of the work that will come out of this event."

In addition to making technical changes, Amazon said it also will improve the way it communicates with its customers.

"We would like our communications to be more frequent and contain more information," the letter said. "We understand that during an outage, customers want to know as many details as possible about what's going on, how long it will take to fix, and what we are doing so that it doesn't happen again."

During the cloud service outages, Amazon said it was focused on fixing the problem as quickly as possible and identifying the cause of the problems. The company said it provided updates online to customers when it had new information to offer.

"That said, we think we can improve in this area," Amazon said.


Amazon cloud troubles leave Reddit, other sites down for a second day

Amazon user Indaba pokes fun at cloud troubles in Site Down Jam! contest

Amazon Web Services cloud problems affect Foursquare, HootSuite, Reddit

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screen shot of's message apologizing for technical difficulties while Amazon's cloud computing services were down. Credit: Foursquare /Associated Press


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Nathan Olivarez-Giles
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