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 Ranganath 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.