Foursquare has added two heavily requested features to its popular iPhone app that should make the service significantly more social: photos and comments.
The new features let you attach photos to checkins, tips and venues, and add comments to the checkins of your friends. These social updates, released just in time for the holidays, will also get enmeshed within the rest of your Foursquare activity and included on your history page.
With photos, you’ll be prompted to add one as you check in, in much the same manner that you’re already prompted to add a “shout” with each checkin. You can then continue to add photos after you check in that will be added to the checkin detail page — this page is also where comment activity happens.
Photos and comments will stay mostly contained to your immediate circle of friends. Photos associated with checkins will only be visible to your Foursquare friends and the other social networks you share them with. Comments, however, are only viewable by your Foursquare friends. So, should you share a photo checkin with Facebook and Twitter, the photo and the checkin will be visible but the comments can only be seen by a logged in user who you’re friends with.
As for photos associated with tips and venues, those will be public to all users with the intention of adding richer context to your picks and pans.
“The community of users that we have are already super comfortable with checkins, so adding something like this to that mix should be pretty powerful,” says Foursquare’s head of product Alex Rainert. Rainert believes photos and comments will stimulate activity in and outside the application and better support the fluid exchange of information.
Foursquare also hopes these new features will help transform the way you think about the service and your location-based activity. Eventually, the startup would like to present your personal archive — photos, checkins and comments — in a more visually arresting manner, according to Rainert. “There are interesting things you can do when people create media at places,” he says. “We hope to build creative ways to let people browse and share that history in the future.”
Rainert stressed the fact that photos and comments have been in the works for months, but were pushed out in an accelerated fashion to get them to users before the holidays. Several enhancements are already in the works, he says. Users should soon have the ability to export photos to Facebook and Flickr, better track comments and more easily access old photos, for example.
Today, however, mobile photo sharing fans already using Foodspotting, Instagram and Picplz, will be gifted with the ability to share their photos — not just their checkins — with Foursquare.
Android users can expect photos and comments sometime this week; BlackBerry owners should expect a photo and comment compatible version of their own in January.