Foursquare Photos and Comments Make More Robust API

Back in February 2010 we asked Why can't you share photos on Foursquare? We discussed that this could be seen as an oversight or an opportunity for others. However, this question has now been deprecated by Foursquare with the introduction of its add photo API method, which suggests that the previous absence of a method was simply because it wasn't a priority, it was an oversight or the opportunity hasn't been taken up by developers as Foursquare had hoped. In addition to the new add photo method, Foursquare have also introduced API methods which allow comments to be added and deleted from checkins. These methods have already been rolled into the official iPhone and Android apps along with a few 3rd party apps that use the Foursquare API.

The introduction of photos should make a big difference as it will not only help people find places in a less dynamic, but still useful, way to Google Streets but will also add a lot of value to tips as explained on the Foursquare blog:

Tips with photos changes everything. See dishes before ordering them, figure out if a venue looks fun, or easily identify a hard-to-find spot. More info = better exploration.

It's surprising that this potential opportunity hasn't been taken up. A very similar opportunity which existed with Twitter, and where new services are still appearing, has been taken up successfully by a large number of apps that allow you to share photos on Twitter. Why didn't these services look at Foursquare in the same way that they saw Twitter? picplz and instagram are two services that we know of that have integrated with Foursquare at the moment.

Althought the comments feature may not add a lot of direct value to the venue, it is a no-brainer for Foursquare and its users. Comments are a big success on Facebook status updates and it's a great way of encouraging conversation and application usage. From the Foursquare blog:

Comments make meeting up and exploring so much easier. Improve your day by telling a friend that you’re around the corner and they should swing by. And getting a last-minute comment reminding you to order the best dish saves your meal. (You can even comment on the website and from check-in links posted to Facebook and Twitter!)

As we continue into 2011, which will be another mobile and location-focused year, we are undoubtedly going to see a number of new location based services. Foursquare is going to have to continue to keep its current user base and add features such as these to encourage new users to try them out and fend off any new competition.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Free and Without Limits: MapQuest Navigation Engine Available as API