The Early Adopter APIs For Foursquare

What catapulted Twitter and Facebook into the Stratosphere? One innovative approach opened the doors to the most successful social media experiments to date? An Application Programming Interface or API is what did the trick! And Foursquare, the popular location-based social network has taken a page out of that playbook in an attempt to scale faster than its competition.

An application programming interface (API) is an interface that a software program implements in order to allow other software to interact with it. In the case of Twitter, Facebook and now Foursquare, this interface allows third-party developers to build anything they desire on top of Foursquare's location-based social network.

According the Pete Cashmore from Mashable in a recent CNN report, he noted the importance of APIs: "It been shown time and again that once ecosystems gain momentum (via APIs), potential competitors face an arduous task." By Foursquare protecting its flanks in the early adopter stage, it protects itself from market share encroachment. While it is not to say that Brightkite and other LBS networks aren't moving down this road,  it appears at this juncture, that Foursquare may be moving at a faster clip.

On their Web site, Foursquare's has issued the following welcome to third party developers.

  • "You can use the API to create new ways to check-in to foursquare or visualize the data generated by the Foursquare community. Our API is still a work in progress and we look forward to your feedback."
And here is a list of the first ten APIs to board Foursquare's Early Adopter Express. After you review, please do take our POLL at the end of this blog and vote for your favorite.

1- Android
Foursquare for Android is an open-source Foursquare client for Android devices (developed by Joe LaPenna,Chris Brummel, Brad Root,Darrel Herbst).Based on their Web site announcement, they promote the app with a jibe toward major competitor: "Now it's the iPhone's turn to be jealous."

Its features will appeal to the growing number of avid Foursquare users. Enhancements include "headache-free quick-check-in," "desktop shortcuts" and "integrated maps."

2- SocialGreat
SocialGreat tracks venue trends and popularity based on Foursquare check-ins (developed by Bill Piel,Jon Steinberg, Sam Lessin). In addition to Foursquare, the SocialGreat app is also available on Brightkite. The primary feature of this API allows users to tag 'great' hot spots in real-time so other users can view what's popular by the "hour, day, week, month or year."

3- Layar
Layar is an augmented reality browser that can overlay Foursquare data on top of a display of the physical world (developed by Johannes la Poutré and Johan Schaap).

One of the most unique features of this app is how venues are shown in the Reality View as an overlay over one's current surroundings (as seen through the mobile device’s camera). Different icons are applied depending on whether you or your friends have signed in at the venue, or if the venue is considered a favorite.

4- Mob Zombies
Mob Zombies is a location-based game that pits you against zombie hordes generated by Foursquare check-in data (developed by Will Carter). Still in early beta, not much is available on this app yet, but you can sign up for updates and communicate with Carter on Twitter.

5- Peek Maps
This app allows you to view the location of your friends on your Peek Mobile device (developed by Mark Bowytz). Peek maps is a free app that will insert a mini-map widget into a blog or can be shared privately between friends, showing where you are located at any point in time. Afraid of Big Brother being able to follow your every move? Fear not. Your Peek Map only convey your approximate location and your map only shows the information you allow it to.

6- FourTap / Oyster
Linking Oyster Card (London subway) swipes to Foursquare (developed by Dan W)is a way of checking into Foursquare and alerting your followers you are now in transit on the London's famous rail system. A video with more detail can be found here.

7- Yipit
Yipit allows users to surface nearby sales and special deals based on your Foursquare check-ins (developed by Vinicius Vacanti and Jim Moran). It scours New York newspapers, magazines, blogs, daily email and local business newsletters to locate up-to-date special offerings. Then, based on your profile of preferences, it predicts which specials a user would favor. According to its own hype, Yipit "gets smarter the more you use it."

8- WordPress Plugin
With this plug-in, a user can publish his Foursquare history on his or her WordPress blog (developed by Andrew Mager). This sample page provided by Andrew Mager will provide you with some insight as to what that type of log would look like.

9- is an app where you can send geo-tagged check-in info from your Firefox browser (developed by Jason Weiner) using an IP and WiFi based location services. This means you can enjoy Foursquare even if you lack mobility and  don't yet have an iPhone, Blackberry or Android phone. The app is also a conduit to updating your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and FriendFeed status.

10- Last Night's Check-Ins
Create a history of stories based on your Foursquare check-in visits (developed by Doug Pfeffer). Its a painless way to keep a log of what you did while you were out. Once registered, LNCI will start sending daily emails containing a user's previous night activities. When one replies back he or she can annotate those visits with notes and/or stories regarding each check-in and the subsequent entries can serve as a functional diary.

So there you have Foursquare's early adopter roll-out list. With this launch, FS can start to scale exponentially similar to its fore-bearers (Twitter an Facebook) and in advance of some of its LBS competitors (see previous blog posting, "Top Ten Location-Based Mobile Social Networks"). However differing markedly from Twitter, FS is coming out the gate swinging for the bleachers from a monetization standpoint. It appears that it would rather establish its financial business model in the early years versus emulating Twitter's reliance on multiple rounds of funding.

In addition to wooing users and developers, FS is courting deals with local bars and restaurants (in all the cities where its located) and has launched "Foursquare for Businesses" as a platform for retailers to offer special deals to Foursquare users.

The only roadblock that FS might face is if the "unmonetized" hand that has been feeding it (namely Twitter) decides to go toe-to-toe with FS and introduce a competitive geolocation service themselves. While Twitter has already commenced that initiative (see previous blog, "Geotagged Tweets" Coming To A City Near You!"), it is presently unclear if the two systems will eventually become competitive or remain synergistic partners.

Take a moment to take our "TOP TEN Foursquare APIs Poll" and let us know which API you favor. Leave a comment if we omitted one of your favorites.
Nov 29, 2009
by Anonymous


a way of checking into Foursquare and alerting your followers you are now in transit on the London's famous rail system

That's not what fourtap does. It's for checking in to bars and other foursquare venues using an oyster card. It's not in any way linked to TfL. It does not announce you are on the tube (that would be tedious)