In the latest of a series of updates to the scope of its functionality, Foursquare launched a redesigned website today that breathes new life into the service's desktop presence. Whereas the popular location-based social network has always existed predominantly on people's phones, today's update makes Foursquare.com a vastly more useful destination than it used to be.

The first thing one notices upon logging into the new Foursquare website is a map that spans the width of the page. If you've allowed your browser to do so, the map will show where you are on the map and display a number of nearby establishments. This isn't just a stale "You are here" mall directory-style map of your neighborhood. The local businesses it shows you have some real intelligence behind them.

The site factors in things like where my friends have been and what venues are popular are Foursquare generally. It even shows my friends plotted on the map, their avatars popping up where ever they last checked in. Zoom and out and see the whole city or two, with more pins showing more recommendations. Keep zooming. You can see the entire country with your friends plotted across it. Keep zooming. Yes, you can even get a global view of your Foursquare network.

If you're planning on visiting another city, you can zoom into it on the map and get similar local recommendations and see which businesses friends of yours have visited there. It's somewhat reminiscent of Plan My Next Trip, the Web app that won first place in this year's Foursquare Hackathon.

More Than Just Location Data

The data being used here is not only location-sensitive, it's also time-sensitive. If I log in at 5:30pm, it shows me some good places to get dinner nearby. Again, it's factoring in my own user data, my friends' tastes and what local Foursquare users more broadly are into. It knows, for example, that I have a tendency to check into cafes and diners, so it shows me those kinds of businesses first.

Having surpassed one billion check-ins, Foursquare is now sitting on a ton of valuable and insightful user data. What better way to display this primarily location-based data than on a giant map? Factor in one's social connections and aggregate user behavior, and you've got yourself one handy guide to your own neighborhood.

The new layout also gives new prominence to lists created by friends and brands. The site's main news feed contains more detail about friends' individual check-ins, including larger photos, if they're posted.

The new site was coded with more than just desktop browsers in mind. Thanks to the team's HTML5 wizardry (and avoidance of Flash), the new layout and features work great on the iPad as well.

What do you think about Foursquare's renewed focus on bigger screens? Let us know your thoughts about the new site in the comments.