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This article was published on September 22, 2009

Foursquare who? ‘Gowalla’ might just be where it’s at.

Foursquare who? ‘Gowalla’ might just be where it’s at.
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Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos, designing, listening to good music and making lurrrve.

56760v2-max-250x250Being based in London, I can’t use FourSquare yet and having tried it out while in San Francisco and Amsterdam, I had been itching to use it frequently…that all changed today.

We received an email with info about a service called Gowalla, I thought precisely what you’re thinking “Gowalla? What the…”. However, upon visiting the site, the odd ball name was forgotten and my pupils widened thanks to the gorgeous UI that lay before me. Yes readers I began to get excited.

Gowalla is created by the team at Alamofire, an equally radical name if you ask me, but with a team that will a design and development pedigree to be proud of. But I digress…

Gowalla is a wonderful take on the “make a game out of places you visit” application and it’s colorful and well crafted design makes it actually want to visit as many locations as possible just for the purposes of “checking in”.

“Checking in?” you ask. Yes, checking in.

Lets start at the beginning. Gowalla is a travel game that rewards you for visiting extraordinary and everyday places. Upon visiting these locations, Gowalla places stamps on your phone, similar to when you’re traveling abroad and visiting countries. The application also lets you gather virtual souvenirs, or what they call “icons”, that can be traded with friends or hidden for others to find.

image001After signing up on Log in to the iPhone app via the username and password you will have created, and you’re greeted with a colorful but easy to navigate iPhone app.

You’ll need to accept that the iPhone app detects your location because otherwise it simply won’t work, will explain why in just a moment. There are four main sections to the application:

  • Passport: Your general overview of how many places you’ve visited (similar to a real passport) and a way to quickly “check in”, which lets Gowalla know that you’re currently at that particular address or “Spot”.
  • Spots section: Shows you nearby “spots” that might be of interest.
  • Trips: A related collection of spots. If you visit all the spots in the a “trip” you earn a certain a “Pin of Glory”, an award to you for completing specific trips.
  • Friends: Just like most social networks, these are the friends you’re looking to keep tabs on.

I won’t lie. My initial excitement stemmed from the fact that Gowalla is available worldwide, unlike it’s main competitor FourSquare. That said, I’m certain once FourSquare users have a peak at Gowalla’s interface, usability and style, they may just wonder whether Gowalla is actually where it’s at.

It’s not just the global outlook and style of Gowalla’s that’s likely to intrigue and excite potential new users.

Gowalla is the only true GPS-enabled, location-based social network service that has content created by users. By actually reading GPS coordinates, users must physically be located at the spot they wish to check in, making it very difficult to “game” the game.


Being fully GPS-enabled also means that users can check in anywhere, even places that aren’t registered to a physical address This takes users beyond cities to include more secluded spots such as the best vantage point to watch the sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge, best view of the Thames in London or the toughest cycling trek in Amsterdam.

With the latest release, Gowalla is now also fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter, but disappointingly the application is still only available for the iPhone.

There’s real potential for applications like Four Square and Gowalla to create win win situations, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Google search appeared on the scene.

Business owners can benefit with information about their devoted customers, and via those customers, be introduced to new ones. For your average person, its a wonderful tool to discover new locations and connect to friends who may be nearby. For the likes of Four Square and Gowalla, and other location based services, it provides a method to serve true localized advertising, and in turn provide their customers with relevant advertising, that can bring value there and then. The question remains, is Four Square or Gowalla going to reign supreme, and sadly the answer is likely to be the same answer to “who gets acquired first…?”

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