Foursquare plans growth around readers who never check in

Company's database of user-generated information could be appealing source of information about the best, worst places to go

NEW YORK -- Foursquare, the mobile social media service built around users "checking in" to their current locations, is adding around a million users a month and should cross the 10 million mark next week, co-founder Dennis Croley said Wednesday.

But to grow to be a cultural phenomenon like Facebook, it may need to let those who never check in tap into active users' information, Crowley told the 140 Characters Conference.

Skeptics view Foursquare the way many once viewed Twitter. The knock against Twitter was "Who wants to hear what you had for breakfast?" even though the service is considered a serious news-gathering -- and news-breaking -- tool by numerous users, including professional journalists.

Now, some critics of Foursquare say they don't want to know in realtime-- nor do they care -- what locations all their friends are frequenting; others worry about security and privacy issues when constantly broadcasting their location.

Proponents, though, say Foursquare offers useful crowd-sourced tips for restaurants, health clubs and the like. Growing a group of users who read and rely on this information without issuing broadcasts of their own would address their privacy concerns.

Crowley said the company has numerous algorithms that help it rank the best and most interesting spots in a city based on data from its millions of users.

There are more than 400,000 merchants using the Foursquare platform to do promotions or offer rewards or discounts to customers and about 10,000 developers writing third-party applications for the platform, he said, such as one that warns you if a restaurant where you've checked in has received a poor health inspection report.

The company is generating revenue -- he wouldn't say how much -- but is not yet focused on turning a profit, Crowley said.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is smachlis@computerworld.com. You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:articles | blogs.

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