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This article was published on December 2, 2010

Gowalla Keeps Innovating – Invents Private Geo Messaging

Gowalla Keeps Innovating – Invents Private Geo Messaging
Lawrence Coburn
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Lawrence Coburn

Lawrence Coburn is the Founder and CEO of DoubleDutch (, whose suite of mobile enterprise apps includes Hive (www.doubled Lawrence Coburn is the Founder and CEO of DoubleDutch (, whose suite of mobile enterprise apps includes Hive (, the first contextual CRM.

Remember Gowalla?  The innovative, early geosocial service with the gorgeous UI and fabulous icons?  In recent months it seems that they’ve been losing ground to Foursquare, Facebook Places, and SCVNGR.

Well, apparently they’ve been busy over there.  Today they launched an ambitious new redesign and upgrade (iPhone only) that give users a whole slew of new reasons to use the service.

Among the new features are integration with services like Foursquare, Tumblr, and Facebook Places (check in once, post to many) and a streamlined check-in process that learns from your check-in history.

But the stand out feature for me is what I’m calling the Private Geo Messaging feature.  Here’s why.

For those of us that have been working on geosocial for a while, the million dollar question is this: once the thrill of badges and points have worn off, how do you keep people checking in?

Foursquare, Facebook Places, and SCVNGR have raced to offer monetary incentives to check in – specifically, deals.  Their bet is that people will continue to check in if they can get discounts and free stuff.

Logically, this makes sense.  In practice, I think there’s more to it than that.  As I’ve written elsewhere, if the web is any guide, the service that pays the most won’t necessarily win.  As the world goes absolutely coupon crazy, there may be other windows of opportunity to provide a compelling experience to users.

With their new private geo messaging feature, Gowalla is gambling that private notes and messages left at specific places by friends for friends, that can be read only by checking into the specific venue where the note was posted, can trump (or at least complement) coupons as the bait that keeps people checking in.

Here’s how it works.

Any Gowalla user can post a note and tag it to any location.  They can then assign a person from their friend network to receive the note, with the simple catch that the recipient must check in to the place that the note was posted in order to read it.

I’ve long argued that compelling content, that isn’t necessarily coupon related, can be enough of a carrot to get people to check in.  What Gowalla has launched is a user generated content machine, in which every piece of content has been created for a specific person, and tagged to a location.

Gowalla private geo messaging is personal, geotargeted, and crowdsourced.

And certainly, it’s only a matter of time before Gowalla users will be able to post notes for themselves at specific places.  Like a list of talking points for a business meeting.  Or a grocery list at a super market.

It’s fun to see innovation break through the raging coupon-apocalypse.

Well done Gowalla.

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