Apple Acquires Mapping Service & Social Engine Spotsetter

Spotsetter was social search engine on top of a map, much like Foursquare

Spotsetter co-founder Johnny Lee, whose LinkedIn profile shows he’s now on Apple’s payroll, has announced a closing of services until further notice. The Cupertino giant is said to have bought the company mainly to hire Spotsetter’s two co-founders and their technology to embed it in Apple Maps.

Co-founder Johnny Lee does not confirm the acquisition, but he does say in the farewell blog post that Spotsetter is closing down.

“With fondest emotions, I’m announcing that we are closing down Spotsetter app. We still have big dreams for personalized search for places and look forward to seeing great progress in this area. Thank you everyone for your support over the past years!”

According to unnamed sources cited by TechCrunch, “Spotsetter [...] has been quietly snapped up by Apple.”

Spotsetter is best described as a social network layered on top of a map. It pins points of interest for individual users based on their tastes in places to visit. TechCrunch has learned that Apple wants to layer the social data aggregated by Spotsetter on top of its own Maps service, replicating functionality that exists in Foursquare.

The deal was mainly for “acquiring the technology and the talent of the two founders,” according to the report. One of the founders, Stephen Tse, is an ex-Google Maps engineer.

Unlike Foursquare, which draws its information from a single source, Spotsetter used a patent-pending algorithm to excerpt user-generated content from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Foursquare. It also raked in data from over 30 review sites and Yelp, Zagat, the New York Times, Michelin, and TripAdviser.

The company has processed over 5 million user profiles in its existence. The app, which is no longer available for download, would allow users to look up places and get personalized results. Users would see what their friends had to say about a certain place, and even see which of them were “experts” in that particular area.

You could tag a friend as an expert in Chinese food, for example, and trust his / her recommendations on restaurants. Spotsetter would also act as a discovery tool allowing users to see where their friends have been and how they liked that location.

Johnny Lee is also quoted as saying, “Our users won’t have to explicitly search; they get a great recommendation at the appropriate time with the right amount of content. Then they continue to enjoy the physical world without a thought about technology.” These values are also deeply rooted in Apple’s own culture.

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