Foursquare API Billionaire: "Thousands per Second"

Adam DuVander
Jan. 23 2012, 09:28AM EST

Every day Foursquare users create millions of check-ins using the location-sharing platform. Those may be only a small fraction of the traffic seen by its API, which we've estimated receives at least 5 billion requests per month. The company continues to expand the local data made available via its API, so developers of all sorts are finding it a rich resource for building their apps.

"We get thousands of API requests per second," a Foursquare spokesperson told us. Do that math and you're at billions per month, enough to put it somewhere in the middle of the API billionaires club.

Although Foursquare is tight-lipped about actual API requests, you can make a pretty solid bet that its official apps make the majority of the calls to the service. We have seen this with other services, most notably Twitter, whose Twitter homepage uses the API and its mobile site is API-driven. Foursquare's apps have entirely used the API since day one. Foursquare's website is not entirely built on the API, but it's starting to use it more, according to Foursquare's Kushal Dave. Dave joined the location company in mid-2010 and immediately began redesigning the Foursquare API.

Based on the types of Foursquare apps we see, building atop the company's user-grown venue database is the most popular. What does the company think of others taking just the places? "Totally fine with us," Dave said. "We're happy to be your venue database even if you don't do check ins." If an app accepts new venues from users, Foursquare likes to see those added to its databases, as well. This is sentiment we've heard from those behind the Factual Places API, as well.

A check in within a non-Foursquare app, such as in Instagram and others, is "the ultimate attribution," Dave said.

Foursquare continues to expand the data available via its API. As the apps launch features, the API also launches them. That was the case with photos and comments a year ago. Most recently the company added menus to venues, something made available via the API before the official apps (it's currently also live on the website and mobile site).

Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

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[...] SinglePlatform used famed New York restaurant Nobu as an example. You can see the menu for Nobu on the New York Times and the same for Nobu on Foursquare. Each is styled for its own site. New York Times uses the embedded iframe, while Foursquare gets at the raw data via API. The location sharing network then also distributes the menus in the Foursquare API. [...]