Foursquare has released a new Web version of its Explore tab at foursquare.com/explore. The mobile version of Explore, which launched last March, is for finding stuff to see and do nearby. Today's release of Explore for the Web helps with planning interesting things to do from the desktop or iPad.

In its announcement of Explore for the Web, Foursquare says its mission is "adding an 'interesting' layer to the whole world, tailored just for you." Foursquare Explore draws on the check-ins, tips, lists and interests of your friends to put a layer of "interesting" - which is apparently a noun at Foursquare - on a map. This is a challenge to Google Places and Maps, which is racing to add "interesting", but Foursquare's 1.5 billion check-ins give it a strong position.

Foursquare's Google Moment

When Foursquare recommendations launched in March, our Marshall Kirkpatrick called it Foursquare's Google moment. It was a Facebook moment, too; both Google and Facebook are trying desperately to get users to check in to places, so they can monetize the recommendations to users' friends.

Unlike the big kids on the playground, though, Foursquare is a mobile-first company, and that's where all its data comes from. Today's launch of Explore on the Web brings that wealth of information back to the desktop (and tablet).

Mobile-First Makes Desktop-Best

Foursquare has earned 15 million users so far. That's no Facebook. That's not even a Google+. But all the Foursquare users are there to check in and recommend places. That's a strong signal for a service like Explore.

This isn't the first desktop Web feature Foursquare has added lately. In November, the whole Foursquare website got a makeover, setting the stage for today's additional recommendation layer. That month, Foursquare also launched a save-to-Foursquare button for websites, allowing users to save places to their Foursquare to-do lists.

Google's Foursquare Moment

Google has been hurriedly adding these kinds of features, too. It acquired Zagat for a reservoir of professional place recommendations, and it's added lots of gee-whiz visual stuff to its desktop Maps interface.

Google wants to add pizzaz to desktop maps with 3D photo "tours"

In November, as Foursquare made its key desktop moves, Google started to turn the screws on Yelp, highlighting Google Places recommendations on Google Maps. But this is a very basic interface. It's not much of a threat to Yelp, let alone Foursquare, whose place recommendations are much more detailed.

This is Google's version of Explore:

Your (Fun) Homework Assignment

Reading about the features isn't as fun as actually exploring, so try Foursquare's homework assignment.

At foursquare.com/explore:

  • Find a place to go to lunch today that you've never been before (hint: look for the 'I haven't been to yet' checkbox).
  • Search for a nice spot to try out tomorrow night (try searching "fun," "romantic," or "Friday").
  • Pick a city you've been wanting to visit (Chicago? Paris? Rio?) and look at our personally-tailored top picks for you there, based on your check-ins from your hometown.

Now try the same at maps.google.com. How did the experiences compare? Let us know in the comments.