By Ben Popper and Ellis Hamburger.

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley has spent the last year trying to convince the world that Foursquare isn't what it used to be. The company emerged back in 2009 with a novel app that let people “check in” to a location. That vision, and the local information that followed, propelled it to amass tens of millions of users, hundreds of millions in funding, and billions upon billions of data points from people who used Foursquare to check in around the globe. The problem was, in 2014, that story no longer worked for Foursquare. In fact, it was holding the company back.

“Listen, the point of the company, this whole thing, was never to build an awesome check-in button,” says Crowley. “That’s not the thing we got out of bed and said, that we wanted to build the most awesome check-in button in the world!” Back in 2009 declaring your location was a necessity, because phones didn’t have the power to reliably pinpoint a user, and Foursquare didn’t have much data on what venues were nearby. By 2014, however, both the technology and the data have finally come of age.

With the check-in front and center, however, Foursquare was still struggling to enter the mainstream and saw its user growth overtaken by younger startups. The company had created a new paradigm around location sharing, but that activity was never going to be as popular as snapping a selfie, sharing a link, or firing off a tweet.

So Crowley decided it was time to do something radical. “What if we don't need people to check in anymore?,” he asked. “What does a version of Foursquare look like that doesn't beg you to check in as soon as you open it up?” Over the last six months, the team has been hard at work on a complete reinvention of the company. In the end they decided that, in order to save Foursquare, they would have to break it half, splitting the iconic service into two separate apps.

Today, the company is announcing the first fruit of this labor, a brand new app called Swarm that will exist alongside the current Foursquare app. Swarm will be a social heat map, helping users find friends nearby and check in to share their location. A completely rewritten Foursquare app will launch in a month or so. The new Foursquare will ditch the check-in and focus solely on exploration and discovery, finally positioning itself as a true Yelp-killer in the battle to provide great local search.