Mobile startup Foursquare wants its users to go beyond checking in and vying for virtual badges -- it wants its 10 million users to do more writing.
In an effort to populate its service with more content on the 500,000 merchants it lists, Foursquare is launching a version of its pages application this week, allowing anyone, from a major brand to an avid citizen, to create a page and leave tips for other users to follow. To be clear, current users' pages can't be turned into follow pages, but anyone can create a new account to be followed. The company intends the change to appeal more to brands.
"We're seeing 70 new brand page sign-ups a week with the old system," Foursquare's product manager, Noah Weiss, said. "When we launch this, anyone will be able to create a brand page that can be followed."
For the moment, Foursquare users can leave tips that show up when their friends check in to a location. Its users can also follow any of the 2,500 brand pages already on the site, such as New York Magazine or MTV , that publish tips on local bars and restaurants.
But there hasn't been any way to follow other people on the service without first agreeing to be friends, a much more personal exchange than on Facebook or Twitter given that people are broadcasting their physical whereabouts.
This latest iteration of Foursquare pages allows people to follow one another short of forming a friendship. CEO Dennis Crowley, for example, no longer accepts friend requests, but can be followed and is a chief source of tips to his followers who do not see every venue he's checked into.
Underscoring this effort to catalyze more content, everyday users who wish to create new follow accounts will have to meet minimum requirements, including posting at least five tips and uploading a picture to their account. That should help Foursquare compete against location-content providers such as Yelp. Media brands like The New York Times will also now be able to check-in to any venue without having to physically being in those locations.
Another change to the pages allows for easier sign-ups for brands. While most major companies such as Pepsi and Starbucks already have brand pages, the 75-person company had been approving account requests through a hand-wrought process involving Excel documents that were being handled by a dozen staffers. The new process is entirely online and only requires a Twitter account to authenticate, meaning that individuals and brands will immediately be able to claim a Foursquare account mirrored to their Twitter account, preventing land-grabs for particular appellations.