Crowley is the founder of Foursquare, the seminal social networking service that broadcasts your location across the net and serves you tips and deals based on where you are. This past February, the New-York-based startup boasted 40 million registered users, but it was facing competition from countless others including the mighty Facebook and as far as Crowley was concerned, his service had never worked as it should. Rather than automatically sending users tips as they moved from place to place, the Foursquare smartphone app required them to "check in" every time they wanted information about their location a time-consuming process that rewarded sitting still rather than exploring and discovering new experiences.
Crowley always envisioned Foursquare as a fellow traveler, dispensing relevant information unbidden sale items as you entered a boutique or popular appetizers as you sat down at a new restaurant
Crowley always envisioned Foursquare as a fellow traveler, dispensing relevant information unbidden alerting you to tucked-away bars as you strolled a neighborhood, sale items as you entered a boutique, or popular appetizers as you sat down for dinner at a new restaurant. But time and again, he was stymied by the massive technical challenge of building this kind of system. "I was worried it wasn't going to work forever," Crowley says.
Finally, after 13 years of trying, Crowley has cracked the problem, thanks to a wonderfully clever data hack from two big thinkers on the payroll: lead engineer Anoop Ranganth and data scientist Blake Shaw. A new version of Foursquare began to roll out this fall, offering the kind of "passive notifications" Crowley had always dreamed of, and last week, with the release of a new app for iPhone and iPad, it reached out to an even wider audience. According to the company, users interact with the new app 60 percent more frequently than they did on previous versions, and they spend 30 percent more time with the thing. Of the more than 1 million "pings" sent in the first two months of the new service, about 40 percent were at least opened by the Foursquare faithful.
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