Facebook has acquired location sharing service Gowalla for an undisclosed sum, according to a source close to Gowalla cited by CNN. "It's a perfect match," said the source. "As far as the big picture, Gowalla's vision is about people telling stories, and Facebook's vision for Timeline is about stories about important moments in life."
Neither Facebook nor Gowalla have confirmed the reported news. "We don't comment on rumor and speculation," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
Austin-based Gowalla launched in 2007, but lost the battle to its direct competitor: Foursquare. The company recently tried to reinvent itself as a travel guide. It's not clear if the location-based social-networking app will be kept under development, if its technology will be integrated into Facebook, or if the social networking giant is simply interested in the company's employees.
Most of Gowalla's employees, including founder Josh Williams, will move to Facebook's offices in Palo Alto, while the rest will stay in Austin and work out of Facebook's local office there. The team will work on Facebook's Timeline feature, which was unveiled three months ago at the company's 2011 f8 developer conference.
Timeline was supposed to launch within weeks of f8 but Facebook is making a point not to rush anything. It will start gradually rolling out Timeline to its 800 million monthly active users when it's ready, though it hasn't announced a launch date.
Four months ago, Facebook decided to kill Facebook Places. At the same time though, Palo Alto added a lot more location features to its social network. Although it phased out the mobile-only Facebook Places, it started letting users add their current location to anything (status update, photo, or Wall post), from anywhere (regardless of what device you are using).
If Facebook has indeed acquired Gowalla, and it seems possible according to this report, I think it did so for the location-based expertise of the employees, not for the technology. This wouldn't be the first time the social networking giant company bought a company for its talent.
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