Develop an app like Foursquare or Yelp, here's your complete guide


Are you thinking to develop an app like FourSquare? Or maybe the next-gen Yelp? OR Do you want to be different from all and become the first of your type- for the business search engine domain?

When entrepreneurs are muddled as in which platform to use for their business promotion, marketing, and expansion; somewhere in the world, it is the people like YOU who think above the skies and get them a brand new way to fulfill their needs.

Now, to highlight your naive app idea with definite Bolds and Italics, we are here to enlighten the path of growth and development for your seedling into a well-flourished garden of innovation.

We’ll inform you in detail about the two local search engine apps- FourSquare and Yelp, and portray the steep and mild asymmetries between them. This will surely get you a clear picture to develop an app like FourSquare or Yelp.

Hereby, we have explained for you the functioning and working of both the online directories in detail so that you can study them and put light on your own idea to thrive.

Yeah, both are search engines listing businesses. But are they different from each other? Which one’s better? What do people use more?

If these are the questions hitting your mind, stay hitched!

First things first. What is a Local Search Engine? It is a subset of the internet search engines like Google, structured from a demographic section of the database, enlisting the local businesses. Such local search engines derive the search results like say for example- SubWay near me, Pet care in Manhattan street, or Marriott Hotels.

Not to worry when TrooTech is here! We bring to you an explanation of both the Foursquare and Yelp models which will help you to choose your cannon i.e. to develop an app like FourSquare or Yelp. Let’s begin with Yelp.

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Yelp – The Traditional Approach

Yelp is the biggest user-induced platform for reviews of businesses. It is a platform for businesses and consumers to engage and transact.

Yelp was founded in 2004 by two former PayPal employees getting inspired by ‘yellow pages’ as an emergency ‘help’ to find a doctor from a directory.

Users provide their reviews for local places they have been to may it be restaurants, florists, pubs, shops, or any customer-centric business place. With this, other users can search the locality through this business directory. Businesses in return earn their ‘word of mouth’ marketing through user ratings and reviews. Yelp can be called a social network where users engage with businesses and with other users.

Functional Model Of Yelp


To develop an app like FourSquare or yelp it is very essential to understand the core functionality of the parent application.

Yelp works by the users and for the users. The users first create the data by reviewing the businesses and this data is used by other users who are looking for information in the form of review for that business.

Entrepreneurs can list their business on Yelp. They can also advertise on Yelp to list their business amongst the user content. This is where Yelp brings home the Bacon! Most of the revenue is generated by Business Advertisements.

There are three users of Yelp: The Businesses, The Users, and the Reviewers.

The Businesses

The local businesses can be on Yelp to earn the much-anticipated user attention and marketing. They can also provide transactions like reservations, bookings, or food delivery to their consumers, so in a way, they act as a food delivery app, travel & hospitality app an eCommerce site and a service marketplace at the same time.

They pay a fee for advertising on Yelp which will show an enhanced listing of their business and more search result rankings. Similarly, they can subscribe/pay for bookings and reservations to their businesses.

The role of businesses in your platform is one of the major differentiating factors to develop an app like FourSquare or Yelp  

The Users

Users are the one who makes these platforms popular. That is why deciding the role of the user is one of the most critical points to consider to develop an app like FourSquare or Yelp.

Users use Yelp to find places of their interests in the locality. Whether they want to eat, shop, or take a service, they search the nearby on Yelp and get useful results.

They can review and rate the places visited for future consumers/users of Yelp. They get easy and sorting options for their relevant search with time-efficiency.

They get more choices and new suggestions for trying out places undiscovered by them. The platform also provides them with a transparent review of the place which can be their deciding factor.

The Reviewers

These special users, are Yelp’s favorite. They are the creators of content on the Yelp platform. The reviewers review places they visit for social engagement and as a fun element.

Their words gain recognition and this excites them. They practice their creative writing skills with the motive of social awareness. They share their experiences for next time visitors. They feel empowered as they are heard via this platform. On earning a good recognition in the Yelp user community, they are promoted to an Elite group and are invited to attend internal community events at Yelp.

The Ad Based Revenue Model Of Yelp


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If you are thinking to develop an app like FourSquare or Yelp, you might want to know how do they make money.

Yelp earns most of its revenue through advertisements. The businesses who want to advertise on Yelp, they pay Yelp a fee to do so. Yelp offers two different types of advertisements for the businesses- the self-service and the full-service advertisement.

Primarily there is a free listing of businesses, that entrepreneurs can do for themselves which includes responding to reviews, update business information, analyze business, upload photos, avail mobile app for business, avail online ordering, avail check-in offers, and deals and gift certificates.

Now the self-service advertisement model offers free services as well as the Yelp Ads, Removal of competitor Ads, avails slideshow and Yelp Reservations, it gets the control to a Call-to-action button and is availed account management support.

However, if the business wants to incorporate featured video ad and call tracking, they can go for the Full-service Advertisement model.

Through these programs, the businesses can run target ads, provide deals and gift certificates, promotes reservation, profile enhancements, and online ordering.

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FourSquare – The Millennials Approach

Now that you know the basics about Yelp, let’s see its counterpart so that you can decide if you want to develop an app like FourSquare or develop an app like Yelp.

FourSquare is a platform where users broadcast their whereabouts to their friends and social circle. This is where the “check-in” terminology has been evolved on social networking portals. Acquaintances of the checked-in user get to know about the place and maybe they try the new place next time. With time, Foursquare has come to a point that it behaves as a local search engine for businesses. It serves as a Data-Mine for retail companies. The businesses get recognized and marketed through the FourSquare platform.

FourSquare was launched in 2009 and within 10 years, big companies like Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Uber, and Samsung are using FourSquare’s location-database for their product market. It was founded to bring in a revolution on the social networking platforms. Not only that but it actually also became a very useful directory of local businesses. Thus, in 2014 it split its two major functions into two separate apps- FourSquare and Swarm; former in the form of a city guide and the latter as a Check-in platform.

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Foursquare Similar App Development

Functional Model Of FourSquare


Initially, it was a single place where users posted their check-ins to a place and where people searched for nearby places. It was a local search engine with a large database of restaurants, service stations, cafes, saloons etc. Users were engaged with the app as it lured them various advantages of checking in multiple times at the same business. Perks like free burgers, free wifi, discounts and up to a gaming Mayor of the place can be earned by visiting a place more often again and again. This gaming element is the most important point to consider to develop an app like FourSquare. The Mayor would have the maximum advantage for having visited the place a maximum number of times. Users could also add tips- one-liner advice for other users visiting the place in the future.

As the number of app users increased, it was biased to declare Mayors, as the old users would be in benefit always, leaving the new users perplexed and unappealing. Thus, the stakeholders decided to split the app in two- Swarm and FourSquare in 2014.

Swarm App; The Social Sibling



This new app is built customarily for check-ins and with the condition that you can struggle for the Mayorship of a place by competing against your friends/ network, instead of anyone and all. Thus, there can be more than one Mayor of a place. So the Swarm app is a personal history reviewer for the user where they can access their network, and see where their friends are checking in. This is where most of the fun and gaming part of FourSquare is merged.

The data collected by Swarm (of user check-ins) is used by FourSquare to inculcate in its database, you can adopt this great strategy to develop an app like FourSqure.

FourSquare City Guide



This app is used as a local search engine and to create a business listing database just like Yelp. There are more than 50 million people using FourSquare every month. Today, FourSquare has become a large location-based database with customer-mapping and their behavior for every business company out there.

Businesses can advertise their business on this platform and get in the top search results. Users were disappointed as the ‘Mayorship’ feature was removed from FourSquare as it was the heart of the App. However, the founders of FourSquare are happy by the splitting of the app as both the varying functions were hindering each other’s growth together. Whereas, separately both the apps were doing well.

The Data Driven Revenue Model Of FourSqaure



FourSquare has a very different approach of earning revenue compared to Yelp. It is very essential for any startups looking to develop an app like foursquare to understand their data-driven revenue model. It segments various business and location-wise data and sells it to the companies in need of such data for market analysis. It sells its data to retail companies like Apple, Uber, Samsung, and Microsoft.

Secondly, it charges businesses, a fee to advertise to their target customers and this is how it makes money. It charges fees on the basis of Cost-to-Action, that is money is earned if a user hovers upon an Ad to get more information or visits the place within 72 hours after watching the advertisement.

FourSquare provides ads such as-

FourSquare Audience Network (F.A.N.): Here, the business earns when the user visits the place physically after watching the Advertisement.

Place-based Ads (PBAs): The Advertisement is placed on the post-check-in page.

Promoted Places (PPs): These Ads show up on the ‘Explore’ page when a user wants to search for a place.

FourSquare Ads for Small Businesses: These self-service Ads are targets to particular potential customers nearby a location with promotional tip, photo, or discount and payment is made if the user acts upon the Ad.

Merchant claims: For a fee of $20, businesses can claim their business, which will give them data to analyze the number of check-ins to their store since establishment, and a number of suite tools.

Data Deals: FourSquare provides data to the businesses with advanced improvement scope with insights into various locations, competitors etc.

These advertisement packages in return produce specifically bifurcated data based on location and business. Such bundles are served as a bunch of data to the companies buying it from FourSquare.

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Head to head comparison of the FourSquare and the Yelp

This comparison table will assist you to make your strategies to develop an app like Foursquare or Yelp.

FourSquare is one of its first type- Geolocation sharing App.Yelp is the biggest platform for business reviews.
It encourages its users to add “tips” along with check-ins to a place.It asks the users to rate and review a place they are visiting and share it on the social network.
It has an anticipating Game Approach as users compete to earn various advantages and Mayorship of a place. It’s a lucrative way to engage users socially.It follows the Fame Approach as the users write long and well-described reviews of a place in order to get their voice heard. It has a better listing and categorizing of businesses and reviews
It is recommended for businesses, whose users are young enthusiasts as they would like the fast and competitive style.It is recommended for the businesses who have a user set that is mature, patient, and stable to think and elaborate their reviews.
Best suitable for business dealing with food and beverages, restaurants, cafes, trendy places etc.Best suitable for business dealing with travelers, visitors, and tourists.
It has just been 10 years that it has launched and has undoubtedly earned great profit. But it lacks in reliable reviews. It is, however, exciting because of its engaging tools.It has been around since 2004 and thus has established a strong review base that is elaborate and reliable.
It has a data-driven revenue model- it earns by selling its data to big companies and it offers smart and better advertisement options for businesses as well.It generates revenue through traditional advertising. The businesses advertise for better listing and search results to their business.

What do the numbers say?

Try guessing the winner before flipping the box

Global Ranking

Global Ranking

Yelps hold a global rank of 195 whereas FourSquare lags way behind and stands at 1725.

Number of users

Number of users

There are approximately 50 million users or visitors of FourSquare and Yelp has over 145 million users.

Search Traffic

Search Traffic

When people search for businesses on the search engines, they get to see 84.24% FourSquare results and 74.49% Yelp results. Of them, 0.2% of FourSquare results occur due to paid advertisements and mostly 99.9% organic results. And Yelp results are made up of 0.7% Paid traffic with 99.3% is organic traffic

Traffic from the United States

Traffic from the United States

Out of all the users, 92.24% users of Yelp are from the U.S whereas FourSquare’s users are well spread over the globe and U.S users make only up to 20.92% of all the users. Its biggest user base is from Turkey which constitutes 21.27%. Yelp has a strong hold over the U.S market because it has been around for a longer time in the

Monthly App Downloads

Monthly App Downloads

The figure is 871501 monthly downloads of the FourSquare App and 1799227 monthly downloads of Yelp.



The Google plays store rates 4.1 stars to the FourSquare User App and 3.8 stars to the Swarm App. Yelp has earned 4.3 stars for its user app and 3.6 stars for its app for business owners. Similarly, The Apple App Store has rated 4.4 stars for the Yelp user app and 2 stars for the business app. And Foursquare gets –4.4 stars from the App Store.

Number of reviews/ check-ins

Number of reviews/ check-ins

Till date, FourSquare has received beyond 12 billion check-ins whereas Yelp has registered more than 171 million reviews on its platform.

Growth rate

Growth rate

FourSquare is in the market for 10 years now and has shown a tremendous growth depicting Over 50% growth since the last 3 years whereas, since 15 years of market-show, Yelp is now declining in growth stats by less than 30% growth in last 3 years.



FourSquare earns revenue of approximately $100 million and Yelp makes it about $917.3 million annually.

The numbers might not indicate the black and white answer to develop an app like FourSquare or Yelp, but from the above results, we can say that Yelp is enjoying the privilege of the first entry in the market and a strong hold on the US user base owing to its traditional approach and maintaining its originality. However, FourSquare’s advanced data-driven model has immense potential which is evident from its recent growth rate.

The Power Lies In Your Hands.

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Which one should you choose?

By now, you might be familiar with both Yelp and FourSquare along with knowing their features, unique value propositions, and the stumbling blocks.

Both Yelp and FourSquare have their specialties and popularities. Many businesses can incorporate features of them both.

Think about your business type and potential customer behavior in the vicinity. If you’re still confused between the two, no need to sweat!

Come meet us, and we will help you to frame a network unique to your thoughts of business.

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More About Author

Vishal Nakum

Vishal Nakum is a tech enthusiast with a passion for exploring the latest developments in the world of technology. He has a keen interest in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Blockchain, and enjoys keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements in these fields. Vishal is an avid learner and is always on the lookout for new ways to expand his knowledge and skills. He is also a creative thinker and enjoys experimenting with new ideas and concepts. In his free time, Vishal enjoys playing video games and reading books on technology and science.