Gowalla Evolves (Don’t Call It a Pivot!) Into Social City Guide
Gowalla, long-time rival to Foursquare, today announced a new direction for its social location service. The Austin, Texas-based company will attempt to offer a hybrid between a social app and a content guide, focused around local experiences.
Instead of checking in, Gowalla users will now create “stories” when they meet up to hang out together. These are basically group check-ins, as on Facebook where a user can tag multiple friends at a place. After that, any tagged person can contribute photos and other content to the story, capturing it as a communal experience.
On the flip side, visitors (who don’t even have to be logged in) will be able to visit Gowalla to see local guides that are aggregated from their friends’ “stories,” as well as highlights from local users and content from sponsors and partners. Gowalla is seeding the service with information on 60 cities that will be dynamically updated with new user entries from within their geographies.
As soon as its new app gets approved, Gowalla will be relaunching with upgrades to its iPhone, Android and Web versions (though users can continue to check in through the old versions).
Gowalla CEO Josh Williams said in an interview today at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that he’s interested to test his hypothesis that “social content has value to observers.”
But don’t call it “the ‘p’ word — a pivot,” Williams begged. “It’s not like we’re doing a music streaming service!”
What might be difficult about this transition is that Gowalla is setting itself up to serve two separate audiences: Content creators and content consumers — groups whose interests and motivations may be quite different. For instance, I could see the new Gowalla guides being really interesting when I travel, but perhaps less so in my home city. There will also be a delicate dance between aggregating public “stories” and those that are published to friends only.
Williams said Gowalla has about two million registered users, with hundreds of thousands of them having used the service in the last couple weeks.