Check this: The world according to Foursquare [INTERACTIVE]

Curious about what 500,000,000 check-ins would look like on a map? The placehounds over at Foursquare have indulged our collective curiosity, delivering an interactive infographic that plots the aforementioned 500 million check-ins on a world map.

The check-ins were accumulated over 3 months, providing an extremely intimate perspective on a certain cohort’s global movements.

The graphic takes the check-ins and places a white pinpoint for each one, creating a density-specific graphic that is fascinating to explore. Zoom into your neighborhood to see the most popular spots with Foursquare users; zoom out to see the distribution of check-ins across a country.

For example, look at the way that the United States is nearly split in half by check-ins, with the east of the country being much more inclined to check-in overall then the west.

Also, note the complete absences of check-ins in certain parts of the world, owing both to the reduced penetration of smartphones in many areas and to the less frivolous use of said technologies among those who pay exorbitant data charges.

The technology behind Foursquare’s check-ins is used by many partners outside of Foursquare, which the company points to in it’s 4-point blog post explanation about what the check-in data says about Foursquare’s business.

Basically, Foursquare is not just a check-in tool, and is really pushing itself into a discovery tool for both travel and local life via the Foursquare Explore feature.

1. Creating amazing personalized recommendations

What makes Foursquare Explore so powerful is that all those check-ins you see aren’t just single points – they’re links between all the other places people have been, too. For example, when we see that a bunch of locals tend to check in to the same tucked-away taqueria after going to a nearby theater, they’re helping us understand the relationship between those two places. So, when someone new to the neighborhood is leaving that theater, Explore can recommend amazing tacos they might otherwise have missed out on.

And when we add check-ins from you, your friends, and people with similar tastes to the mix, our suggestions become even more personalized. If we see that you and your friends check in at breweries and beer gardens often, we know the perfect bars to recommend when you land in a new city, because we know where aficionados like you tend to go. We like to think of it as our version of Google PageRank for the real world – we’re working to understand the billions of invisible connections between places so we can make amazing recommendations.

2. Building a powerful location layer for the world

Those points are also an amazing visualization of the ever-expanding, ever-improving database of tens of millions of places that powers Foursquare Explore. It illustrates why, when you open up the app, no matter where you are in the world, you can discover rich information about all the places around you.

Because our location database is based on millions of check-ins every day, it’s incredibly reliable and up-to-date. That’s why everyone from Instagram and Bing to Flickr, Quora, Path, Soundtracking, Evernote, Garmin, and thousands of other developers use our location information to power their apps. Over 100 million people a month see Foursquare’s location information through our partners.

3. Connecting people with the places they visit

Part of understanding where people go is helping them connect with the places they love. If you like a cafe in your neighborhood, or a boutique shoe store, we want to build tools so they can keep you up to date with their latest menu items, shipments, and sales. And if you’re looking for a museum to go to this weekend, we want them to be able to share their latest exhibits and special admission hours with you. Through our tools for businesses, we want to help you strengthen your connections with local merchants, and help you discover ones we think you’ll love.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.



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  1. Matt Baume

    I’d kind of written 4sq off in favor of FB’s checkins, since I like adding photos and tagging people. (As a photographer, those features help me do self-promotion.) but this makes me want to revisit the app and see how it’s improved in the last 2 years.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      4square has definitely changed for the better – but is definitely struggling to keep up with the likes of Instagram in my opinion. Those more passionate about photography generally see Foursquare as a badge-seeking check-in only service, whereas Insta is more about the quality of photos. And with the new map feature on Instagram, discovery has also become possible.

      Don’t write Foursquare off yet – they’ve got a solid mobile-first strategy and plenty of traction via their partnerships. The question is: how do they get people like you to come back and then stay?


      • Matt Baume

        That’s a good question. If someone synced my checkins with my contacts on other platforms, that would be the killer feature. For example, I checkin on 4sq, and that same data pops up on Instagram, FB, Pinterest, Twitter, Flickr, etc. I’ve got contacts on each of those platforms and I can’t spend a half hour checking in on each one every time I walk through a door. People keep telling me to look at Sonar for that, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

        The second-killerest feature would be letting me know when one of my contacts is geographically close, or just telling me where my friends are. FB had that briefly, and then it went away. I think 4sq has that as well? I can’t remember. Clearly, time for me to revisit.

        • Nick Vivion

          Nick Vivion

          I’m actually in the midst of writing up a startup that would be perfect for you then – it’s called Banjo ( and it basically aggregates all of your social networks into one geo-located space so you can see who is where and what content they’ve created there.

          Fun stuff, methinks!


          • Matt Baume

            Welp, I just spent 10 minutes with Banjo, and I can’t figure out how to use it. I think it’s a neat idea? But the map doesn’t make any sense to me — it’s just showing me where strangers are. I totally do not get this “you are now in” conceit. (“Taking you to your current location”??? WTF does that mean?) And how the heck do I even check in on this thing? Oh well.


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