Foursquare is fast approaching its first anniversary. The free social service, which lets people share their location with others from their mobile phones, launched at last year's South by Southwest festival. It has since gone on to become a Web 2.0 darling in a way that its predecessor Dodgeball (also from one of Foursquare's co-founders) never did, due mostly to the growth of users with GPS-enabled smartphones.
But short of its badge system, which awards heavy use with virtual trophies, the service has always been lacking a sense of reflection--a way for users to look back on all their check-ins and gain something from it. That's why developer Danny Pier, whose previous work includes Firefox extension TwitterEyes, put together CheckoutCheckins.
Its premise is so simple, it's a wonder that Foursquare itself didn't think of it. It plots your last 50 check-ins on a Google map, providing a very cool way to look at what you've been doing upon each Foursquare check-in. Included on the Google map is a heat map of areas where you've logged the most check-ins. Users also get two simple pie charts that break down the most visited cities and venues.
Going forward, the site will also add a way to view your progress by the day, so you can look back on a particularly epic night out, then make sense of it later on. This can be helpful for those times you've lost something and want to retrace your steps.
Along with this fleeting taste of the last 50 places users have been, Pier is enabling users who register to get a broader view of their Foursquare history--as in all of it. The site will track every check-in, even after it's long gone from Foursquare's own site. The idea there is to get a better understanding of your social habits over a longer period of time. That should translate nicely to a recommendation engine on which Pier is working that is designed to offer things to do, based on where that user wants to go, and what his or her logged activities have been up until that point.
Other niceties in the works include a way for users to stay on top of their mayorship--the places where users have secured more check-ins than any other user over a month. Pier wants to provide a reminder system that will warn users when another user is closing in on their mayorship so they can defend their virtual turf. As it stands, Foursquare's own way of doing this is to let people know after they've been knocked off.
Ultimately, Pier has put together the beginnings of a very powerful way to cull your own activities and make sense of them. And if the recommendation tool pans out, it could help make Foursquare a very useful service in helping people discover where they want to be--not just where they currently are.