Remember those toothpaste commercials with claims like “Nine out of ten dentists agree…?” You’ll soon be saying the same thing about foursquare venues, thanks to a new venue rating system the company began testing on their website tonight.
Venues are now rated on a ten point scale based on the number of people who’ve liked and disliked them. They also include the total number of “signals” the score is based on and a general sentiment (i.e., “people like/don’t like/have mixed feeling about this place”). Venues without enough data don’t show a score at all.
Ratings represent foursquare’s latest shot at the local search supremacy of Yelp, which rates venues on a five star scale. At first glance, foursquare’s ten point scale seems to alleviate some the 4–4.5 star centricity of Yelp venues (see the latest XKCD comic) by introducing enough variation to make the ratings meaningful. Highly rated places tend to fall across the 8 to 10 point range.
Along with this update, foursquare has combined search and Explore into a single page, so results are displayed directly on the map and filtered by foursquare’s Explore algorithm. The type-ahead drop-down box has also been broken into more logical sections, hoping to find exactly what users are looking for. The new groupings include a link to the Explore results for the word, venue/page/friend matches, and links to people and page search results. Strangely, ratings do not yet appear on the search results page.
The new ratings make it easy to get an at-a-glance feel for the general sentiment toward a venue as you search on the website. As foursquare tweaks the algorithm, there’s no doubt they’ll be bringing it to the mobile apps, which will put it even further ahead of the rest of the mobile local search apps.