If you’ve been a Gowalla fan for a while, life just got great or ruined, depending on how you look at it. The app, which has seen rabid adoption from a small group of fans, has just undergone a major change and has turned into more of a “social guide” than just a check-in service.

First off, it starts with new apps for both iPhone and Android. When you load up the apps (which look stellar, by the way), you’re gifted with the social guide feature that will give you recommendations from your friends, as well as “experts”. WIth this move, Gowalla is essentially taking on the position of being the Fodor’s of mobile apps.

Guides are only available for 60 cities thus far, but you’ll see more soon. On top of the cities, though, there’s some specialty content via a partnership with Disney, National Geographic and more that will serve to give you detailed tour information for national parks, Disney World resorts and the like.

 Gowalla flips its check in service to be a social atlas for the world

Check-ins take a different approach with the new Gowalla, too. Understanding that nothing works quite as well as a good story, there’s an entire stories concept that is built around checking in. So instead of just a check-in, you have an entire text entry area where you can tell the tale of what brought you to that place, or what happened while you’re there.

The team says that it wants to build a “social atlas for the world”. As has always been the case, check-in data and tips that you leave will help Gowalla to add more information to its database.

 Gowalla flips its check in service to be a social atlas for the world

Highlights, Lists and Loves that you use on the service are an even more important part of the bigger picture than they might have been in the past. Since that data is aggregated into the social guides, your personal recommendations are going to be seen (or at least the data from them will be) by far more people than just those who are following you.

Oh yes, you’ll notice that I said follow you. That’s because Gowalla is hopping onto the Twitter (and now Facebook) trend of allowing people to follow you, depending on your privacy settings, instead of requiring a mutual friendship.

In all it’s a huge step forward for the underdog check-in app. It’s been my app of choice for ages, and I look forward to interacting more with the Stories tab because after all, that’s what I do.

Want to get in on the new action? Gowalla’s new app is live now, for iOS and Android, so get downloading and let us know your thoughts.