For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t heard of it, foursquare is a GPS-aware smartphone application that allows you to “check-in” pretty much wherever you go. It’s a social network, and you have friends who (if you want to, and they want to) can be notified whenever you check-in anywhere (and vice versa, of course). Additionally, there’s a game element to it. The more places you check-in, the more points you get, and you can get achievements and “badges” based on various criteria. If you’re the person who has checked in the most at a given location, you become the “Mayor” of that location.

Recently, foursquare put up a page targeted at businesses who might want to leverage foursquare users to drum up foot traffic. Essentially, you just tell foursquare about what kind of special offer you’re providing to foursquare users, and they list you on their website. As of right now, here are the local businesses that are participating:

There are also plenty of other restaurants participating in foursquare in their own way. It can be as simple as posting a sign at the door saying, “Mayor drinks for free!” How do they know who’s Mayor? The person has to show their smartphone which will indicate that they are, indeed, Mayor.

But foursquare isn’t just for telling people where you are — you can also create a “to do” for a given location, and browse the To Dos that other people have created near you. This is a very interesting way to find out about wherever you happen to be. I try and make a point of browsing the To Dos whenever I’m out somewhere new. Someone may have recommended a particular dish or drink, or even restaurant that I might never have tried otherwise.

Here’s an example, my co-worker Meghan’s profile shows a list of the To Dos she’s left at different places around town, the badges she’s earned and all of the places she is Mayor.

Foursquare also offers an API that “enables developers to build applications that interact with the foursquare platform”. There are already a few really interesting projects listed on foursquare’s developer page, and I think there is a tremendous opportunity here to help bridge the gap between the online world and the real world

This is the future, people. I can taste it.