Social networking company Foursquare is in talks with Microsoft, Google and Yahoo over using its data to help enrich search results, UK paper The Telegraph reported on Monday. According to co-founder Dennis Crowley, the data would be anonymized and then shared.
Foursquare is one of the most rapidly growing social networking services on the Internet. Last week, it signed up its two millionth user, just three months after signing up one million. Word of mouth seems to be driving a lot of the growth, as friends sign up to follow one another.
By the nature of the service, search engines could be able to spot trends in what people are doing by check-in data. In turn, they could use this to better results on location-based searches.
None of the companies would confirm the talks were happening, and Crowley did not specify a time frame when the deals could be signed. In any case, Foursquare would be following a similar path as Twitter did: the company’s first content deals were also with search engines.
One advantage for Foursquare is Crowley’s past. He also founded Dodgeball, which was sold to Google in 2005. Like Foursquare, Dodgeball was also location-driven, although was done via text message. While Google ended the service in 2009, Crowley has maintained a close relationship with many at the search giant.
Some are not as impressed with the possibility of a tie in with search. Writing for Business Insider, Nick Saint seemed non-plussed by the news.
“It’s an attractive idea in theory, though it’s difficult to see this data being widely useful just yet,” he argued. “Foursquare’s two million users are impressive, but not enough to shed much light on what places people in general are going to.”