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Just in time for South By Southwest — a historically significant show for Foursquare — the company is out with the latest version (3.0) of its iPhone app. Many of the features fall closely in line with the company’s comments to us and others that it will continue to innovate “beyond the check-in.”

A long blog post by founder Dennis Crowley expands on the drivers for these updates and how they represent one snapshot in an otherwise ongoing evolution as a company and a product.

“We started foursquare with the idea of “making cities easier to use,” focusing on check-ins as the atomic unit of measuring interest in a place. From our work on dodgeball (an early location-based project), we knew that while check-ins were interesting in the present tense (“Hey, Alex is at Ace Bar!”) they were most interesting when viewed in aggregate, as a history of the places you’ve been and people you’ve overlapped with. The world becomes so much more fun, social, and interesting when you have that context. We’ve long wanted to build those things that can augment your experience of the real world – software that introduces you to new places and new experiences – and with the launch of foursquare 3.0 we’re getting a little closer to that vision.”

In a separate e-mail from the company today, some of the v 3.0 upgrades specifically include:

— Explore: People always have used foursquare to get recommendations from their friends. Every check-in and tip – whether your own, your friends’, or another member of the foursquare community – now feeds into providing great recommendations for everyone.

— Leaderboard: With our completely re-imagined Leaderboard, we’re seeking to create real-world encouragement for everything you do – whether it’s going out with friends you haven’t seen in a while or trying new types of food.

— Specials: People really like foursquare Specials, and businesses love loyal customers. That’s why we’ll now be offering 7 different types of Specials–Swarm Specials, Friends Specials, Flash Specials, Newbie Specials, Check-in Specials, Loyalty Specials, and Mayor Specials–to allow businesses to reward their loyal customers and entice new ones. Now you can more easily search for specials when you’re out and about.

The user facing aspects are geared toward discovery, a trend we’re seeing all over the mobile local space, and one which Foursquare itself continues to espouse. This includes a more intelligent system of recommendations based on explicit search, past activity and friend activity.

The leaderboard enhancements are also interesting and long overdue; even Crowley admits that. These should breathe new life into the game mechanics at the heart of Foursquare.

The advertiser facing aspects are interesting too — and well in line with Foursquare’s evolution to better serve local advertisers with ways to drive foot traffic. Here, clearer value proposition is brought by the seven new clearly defined categories of deals.

It could be argued that without this structure, it can be confusing to SMBs about how to “use” Foursquare for local marketing or customer loyalty. Simplicity is paramount for SMB advertising and this better accomplishes it.

The app should be live in iTunes tomorrow, and Foursquare GM Evan Cohen will keynote our ILM East conference in two weeks in Boston. I’m looking forward to having the chance to dive deeper on these and other product evolutions. Hope to see you there.

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