Gowalla 4 – What’s the Story?

Back on November 18, 2010, Gowalla made a HUGE announcement about partnering with Disney. Up until this time, I had not really taken the social location check-in phenomena very seriously. I figured this was a great time to jump in and learn what it was all about, and if it was something I might find fun.

Fast-forward 10 months, and I am now a fairly regular user of Foursquare and Gowalla. I always felt like they were fairly similar in nature, but had slightly different angles. In Foursquare you earned points, but in Gowalla you would earn stamps. There was a certain amount of “game” in your progress and efforts to check-in to locations. In Foursquare I typically felt as if I was competing in the game, while Gowalla was more about trying to collect stamps for my own sense of accomplishment.

It would appear that Gowalla felt that there were too many similarities between them and the competition, and have decided to really differentiate their product. According to their blog, “We’re building a social atlas for the world. And we need your help to do it.” So now, they’ve changed Trips to be called “Lists”, and Check-In’s to be “Stories.” The interface and work-flow is entirely different than the old app. In addtion, there are over 60 “Social Guides” to cities. The Social Guides combine peoples highlights, popular locations, and best sites, to provide a mini guide for what to do on your travels. Overall, Gowalla seems to be moving away from your day to day check-ins, and trying to tackle your adventures and travels. They have continued their partnership with Disney, and are providing Social Guides to Disney Parks such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long until the outcries started rolling in, with people experiencing a lot of crashes on the iPhone. Thankfully, they were able to release an update quickly and 4.0.1 is available for download. Users were also very confused by what had happened to many of the things they loved about Gowalla, such as Items and Stamps.

As a previous Gowalla user, the new interface was very unintuitve to me. I had heard whispers that Gowalla 4 was going to be a big change, but hadn’t realized how drastic it was going to actually be. I do think that Gowalla needed to do something like this to differentiate themselves and gain the growth that Foursquare has benefited from. The partnerships with Disney and National Geographic are great signs that they are trying to have high quality content. I suspect it will take a few releases for everyone to be comfortable with Gowalla’s new vision, but I am optimistic that it will be a good thing. If you haven’t done so already, go download Gowalla 4 and try it yourself: If you still have Gowalla 3 installed, it is supposed to continue working for the time being.

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