Ten years later, Foursquare is still making a case for location-sharing tech.

The company known for popularizing the digital check-in at SXSW a decade ago now is showing off a new, experimental feature that takes advantage of all of the company’s location data. It’s called Hypertrending, and it’s launching now in Foursquare’s apps for SXSW attendees in Austin (you have to shake your phone to access the feature).

Hypertrending is essentially a real-time heat map that lets you see where people are at any given moment. It’s all anonymized, so you can’t see the location of any one individual, but the idea is to give users a window into where the masses are — something that could be useful for the thousands of people who descend on Austin for SXSW.

“Hypertrending is a top-down view of all the places and phones that Foursquare knows about in Austin,” Foursquare founder and former CEO Dennis Crowley writes in a blog post. 

Foursquare's new "Hypertrending" tool.

Foursquare’s new “Hypertrending” tool.

Image: foursquare

“The ‘Map’ view gives you a real-time look at how people are spread throughout the city – each dot represents a different place, the size of each dot corresponds to the number of people at each place, and each color represents a different type of place. If you see it on the map, you’re seeing it live.”

All this location data in’t just based off Foursquare’s own apps, by the way. It also pulls data from third-party apps that use its platform (it allows apps like TouchTunes to use its location data), although Foursquare isn’t disclosing which apps are part of Hypertrending. Data from these apps enables Foursquare to get an up-to-the-minute read on where people are at any given time, Crowley says. 

If you think the idea of real-time location sharing is, well, kind of creepy, you’re not alone. Crowley says the company is well aware that Hypertrending is “provocative.” He notes that potentially “sensitive” locations, like residences, are excluded from Hypertrending. 

“We’re aware that Hypertrending walks a fine line between being ‘creepy’ and ‘cool,'” he writes. “That’s why we decided to make the Hypertrending demo available only in Austin, only during SXSW, and we currently have no plans to launch it to a larger audience after SXSW.”  

Instead, he says the company is showing off Hypertrending now in order to show what might be possible in the future. “Our hope is that the demo piques the interest of developers and entrepreneurs and inspires them to build things we can’t even imagine using our tools, technology, and data platform.”

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