Google may offer a wide variety of services, but to this day their homepage at google.com is still little more than a single search box. That’s what they’re known for, after all.
Today foursquare is expected to launch a new version of their desktop homepage (for logged out users, at least) that hopes to emulate Google’s successful philosophy. Search Engine Land reports that the new homepage will feature a single search box in the center of the screen, completing their evolution to a local search provider.
It’s clear with this change (which builds on the recently enlarged search box and improved Explore results page) that foursquare is aiming for the likes of Yelp and Google Local with hopes of providing a superior search experience to either site. For the past two years, they’ve been building what is essentially an un-gameable version of Google’s PageRank for real world places, creating rankings from real-world check-in data and other signals. Putting the search box front and center reveals that information to non-users for the first time.
Users without a foursquare account will, of course, be served generic results, but there’s no doubt there will be encouragements along the way for them to create their own accounts and start benefiting from the personalized results foursquare can provide based on their preferences and those of their friends.
I would be surprised if the the next generation of foursquare mobile apps didn’t follow this same pattern, offering users a generic search option before they register. Foursquare does, after all, see much more traffic from mobile platforms than they do the desktop site.
Foursquare’s biggest challenge going forward is shedding the image they fostered in their first two years of existence as a check-ins service where you told people where you were in exchange for badges and mayorships. While those features are still present, they’re very little of what foursquare focuses on these days. Foursquare must work to convince the people who’ve only heard of their past to give it a try now that they’re almost wholly focused on local search and recommendations. The new Google-like homepage goes a long way to making that happen, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.