Gowalla steers towards original content on location-based apps

Gowalla is beefing up its location-based, check-in app, which could steepen the competition with both Foursquare and Google.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Foursquare has been at the forefront of location-based social media apps for checking into restaurants, landmarks and other notable (and some not-so-notable) places worldwide. Gowalla has been in the shadow to some extent since both products launched simultaneously during the South by Southwest conference.

Now, Gowalla is making a shift that gives the platform a better edge and more distinct brand.

During a presentation at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Monday morning, Gowalla's founder and CEO Josh Williams announced that his company is integrating social and travel guides into the app.

"The goal [of Gowalla] is to inspire people to get out and explore more," said Williams, adding that Gowalla now has about four million crowd-sourced places shared in its app, making it one of the largest crowd-sourced libraries in the world with millions of photos and hundreds of thousands of data points (i.e. lists, highlights and recommendations).

"When we looked at those four million places, we realized many of them are grouped and clustered around cities and parks," Williams said.

Thus, in order to make better use of that information, Gowalla will be adding over 60 city guides to some of "our favorite places" around the world, structured by information from three primary resources: locals, friends and curated providers.

Those providers include Disney, National Geographic and several universities including Stanford and the University of Texas. Williams also acknowledged plans to integrate reviews and info from Foursquare, Facebook and Yelp in the future.

Gowalla's shift towards city guides puts it in line to compete with a number of new app competitors, such as Lonely Planet and potentially even Google's suite of mobile apps now that the Goog has purchased Zagat. However, this also gives Gowalla a better chance against Foursquare, which has gone more in the direction of location-based instant and daily deals thanks to partnerships with Groupon and LivingSocial, among others.

Williams didn't provide an official launch timeline for the next version of the app that will include these features, except that it will be "hitting in the very near future," and that a small group is testing the app in beta now.


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