With Foursquare’s new Windows 8 app, check-ins and badges are a thing of the past. The experience is now all about search and discovery.

Foursquare has evolved from a game of check-ins to a search and discovery service. Its Explore search engine is becoming one of the startup’s most compelling assets, powered by the social and location data its users feed the app.

Today, with a little help from Microsoft, Foursquare unveiled what its next generation of products could look like. Its new app for Windows 8, the elegant (though oft-maligned) operating system Redmond designed for laptops and tablets, shows how the Foursquare experience could extend beyond smartphones and other mobile devices. The service is centered around search and discovery, helping users find restaurants and bars. But the app’s most significant feature is perhaps what isn’t there: Foursquare’s activity feed, long a staple of the social service, has been removed. “This was a very conscious product decision–we wanted to put the attention on finding great places,” says David Ban, Foursquare’s mobile business development lead. “It’s indicative of the latest thinking of the company–of what our strengths are and what we want to present to the user.”

Foursquare’s Windows 8 app is a highly visual experience. The platform’s tiled design is perfectly geared toward Foursquare, which prides itself on bite-size nuggets of data: check-ins, tips, lists, and so forth. When users open the app, Foursquare populates the screen with images of nearby venues–recommendations that show what’s trending or recently opened. Users can search for coffee shops or dive bars, and see basic information such as ratings, hours, and tips. Venue photographs appear in a beautiful grid, a collage of dishes and cocktails that make for a good visual representation of what you’re searching for. “It’s very different than what you’ve seen from the native Foursquare experience,” says Ban.

The app is a significant departure from the traditional social Foursquare experience. The company has long been distancing itself from check-ins and badges, but this is a new leap forward.

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