Foursquare: Slightly new and somewhat improved

Foursquare: Slightly new and somewhat improved
Foursquare has recently updated from what's shown in this 2011 file photo and has a host of new features. (Getty Images)

What's that they say about never judging a book by its cover?

Foursquare got an update last week, and based on all the teasing the company was doing on its Twitter account with the hashtag #allnew4sq, I think I speak for the entire social media universe when I say I was expecting much more.

Not that what we got is bad — it's just more cosmetic than substance. Now that I've had a week to play around with it, I'm finding navigation easier than ever.

Here's a look at what you'll notice:

I heart this: New here but familiar elsewhere, Foursquare finally added the ability to "like" stuff. Click the heart when you like a venue, someone's check-in or a tip or list. And hopefully Facebook takes notice because Foursquare also implemented a dislike button - a broken heart. Foursquare's design of the buttons is clean and the messages are clear.

Tiles: When you go to your profile page, by clicking on the icon marked "Me" in the lower right corner, you'll see a bunch of tiles including friends (with little faces), your stats (mayorships, points, top places and most-explored categories), photos you've uploaded, the tips you've left, your badges and the lists you've created.

The power to Explore: Foursquare launched Explore in version 3.0 in 2011 as a way to serve up recommendations based on your friends' habits. Thanks to all those check-ins, Explore is more powerful now – it even takes into account time of day and weather. Good to know, because there's nothing worse than a suggestion to go to a beach during a thunderstorm. And as always, recommendations are based on location.

Where are you and where have you been: Little icons and faces not only show where your friends are checked in, but where they've been. While I applaud Foursquare for the ability to see things this way, I find it cluttered and not very useful.

A picture's worth a thousand words: Maybe, but it's nice to be able to go straight to a venue by just clicking on the photo. And the photos are large and help break up all that text.

Check-in time: Don't worry. It's still there, you mayor wannabe, you. Click on the map pin icon in the upper right corner to check into a specific location or for the familiar list of what's nearby.

Here's the thing. Foursquare clearly wants to be the next Yelp by gathering data on all those check-ins and helping you decide what to do and where to go. I get that. And it's fine for some, but not for me. I use Foursquare to check in and play for badges and mayorships. I also enjoy leaving tips and creating lists. But I have never once used Foursquare for a recommendation. Maybe the new features and the continued growth of the Explore engine will eventually change my habits.

What about you? How do you use Foursquare? My guess is that we all approach it a little differently.

So Social is a social media tips column by The Tribune Media Group's Amy Guth and Scott Kleinberg. Tweet them at @amyguth and @scottkleinberg.