Facebook + Gowalla – good idea?

Rumours are abound that Facebook have bought out Gowalla to help out with their new ‘Timeline’ feature that will be replacing the failed ‘Places’.

My experiences with Gowalla

When I first got an iPhone 3GS just over 2 years ago Gowalla had just started up alongside Foursquare providing a location check-in app.  Like many others I chose Gowalla and I was really happy with the app and the subsequent improvements that were made to it.  I used it solidly everywhere I went for the whole time I had the iPhone.

At the beginning of November I decided to upgrade to an Android phone, plumping in the end for an HTC Sensation XE.  One of the first apps I downloaded was the Gowalla app, but was disappointed to see that it had changed.  All of the badges I had collected over the past 2 years were gone, as were all the items I’d collected along the way.  The whole thing was totally different.  It was then that I discovered that Gowalla had “changed their strategy in order to broaden their user base”!  Hmm.

After doing a little digging around the internet I discovered I wasn’t the only Gowalla user that was upset by this change of direction.  In a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” I’ve bitten the bullet and joined Foursquare – it’s not an ideal solution but what can you do?

So what about this buy-out?

Well, things started moving on 30 November when stories such as this one started surfacing that Gowalla were looking for a buyer.   Then the next day CNN broke the story that Facebook had bought out Gowalla, and the report went pretty much global in hours.

It was not more than a year ago (August 2010 to be exact) that Facebook revealed it’s ‘Places’ service in direct competition to Foursquare and Gowalla that reports from FastCompany and Mobile Computing News appeared.  At that time it seemed that the three could live together.  Gowalla was always (at least in the time that I used it) linkable to Facebook so your check-ins would appear on your wall, even after the launch of Facebook Places.

Now it seems as though Facebook and Gowalla have given up the fight with Foursquare and are now working on something new.  There’s no doubt that the people at Gowalla can produce some good stuff, but whether that can help improve the Facebook experience … well, only time will tell.  Gowalla have accumulated a lot of information on probably every major city in the world thanks to their users.  Much of that information has gone into their new City Guides so it only stands to reason that this information could form part of the Facebook service.

However, the question of Facebook’s previous shaky reputation regarding personal usage data has put fear into some Gowalla users (myself included) who have promptly shut down their Gowalla accounts. In actual fact I had shut mine down before this story broke, but I have seen some comments that show that a lot of people have cancelled their accounts purely based on this story.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see: a) whether the story is true, and b) what the final result will be.

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