Yesterday saw the confirmation of the sale of Social Location Marketing app Gowalla to Facebook for as yet undisclosed sum. This is part of the compression of the space that many predicted would happen this year. Earlier in the year we saw Whrrl bought and closed down by Groupon. Gowalla, in their announcement yesterday noted that the service will close at the end of January.
Gowalla Closing:Impact for Marketers
So what does this sale mean for marketers who, for the most part are only just discovering the power of Social Location Marketing? Firstly, it means that their choice of potential partners is now limited to only one serious player – Foursquare. While there are other apps available they are either minor players or niche focused. A great example of this is CarZar, which is both a photosharing app and a location sharing app rolled into one. However, it is only of interest to car enthusiasts. Good for marketers in that space but limiting for marketers outside of it.
Gowalla Closing:Impact for Users
I’ve been a Gowalla user since its first version. I loved collecting the digital objects, these became increasingly less important as Gowalla tried to become more Foursquare like with badges. Even then their focus on being a “beautifully designed” platform set them apart. Their focus switched to being more about experience and location, providing badges for states, which as someone who travels frequently were fun to collect. However, their latest iteration seemed poorly thought through. Some pundits have said that while Gowalla is going to Facebook your data is not. Josh Williams has been quoted as confirming this though the official announcement on the Gowalla blog does not say that.
I think it is naive of anyone to think that the Gowalla purchase was solely about hiring talent. Facebook is about data, the more data the better. The value that Gowalla brings is from its users data, so you can expect that the data was part of the deal. After all look at the game developer Zynga, their potential valuation at somewhere in the region of $10bn is not because investors think that Farmville is the most awesome game ever created, it is because Zynga collects vast amounts of user data every day about the millions of people who play their games. Your Gowalla data is much to valuable to Facebook for them to simply let that slip away.
Gowalla Sale: Facebook & Location
Some pundits are postulating that we can expect to see a Gowalla like environment in Facebook next year with a renewed emphasis on Social Location Sharing. I doubt this very much. Facebook knows its audience and its audience never really saw the benefit to sharing their location through Facebook when they were already using Foursquare and other platforms to check in. I do agree with those that say we might see some of the design ethic from the Gowalla team make an appearance in Facebook and I for one would definitely welcome that.
I’m sad to see the end of Gowalla, having lived in Austin and met the team several times I know that they truly believed in their product as did their users. They have a lot to offer Facebook and I hope that they are given the opportunity to contribute to the direction that Facebook takes next year.
Update: Josh Williams, Gowalla CEO – restated on Twitter that “Facebook is not acquiring any user data. It’s just that simple. No story here. No spin.”