Posts Tagged 'foursquare'

Is Gowalla Dead?

By: Tim Baker

GowallaA little less than six months ago, Gowalla was riding very high. They were the darlings of SXSW, at least in the eyes of the Austin residents, and were in a promising position as they stood toe-to-toe with Foursquare. My, how a lot has changed.

Despite just being named one of Time’s 50 best websites of 2010, Gowalla has lost a lot of steam in the geolocation wars. Foursquare, the New York City-based startup, has been racking up win after win with many high-profile deals including Zagat, TLC, Bravo, VH1 and Starbucks. With Facebook throwing their hat into the ring with “Places,” I believe Gowalla is at a make-or-break point if they hope to survive.

Despite the beautiful aesthetics of their mobile app, Gowalla has been criticized by some as being too confusing or even childish. The feature where random virtual objects are left behind for others is often cited as the most confusing aspect of the service. However, in the world of tech startups, having the prettiest service doesn’t always resonate with consumers.

The data is not on Gowalla’s side. Analyzing their website traffic stats shows a sharp decline after their SXSW peak in March, compared to Foursquare who’s site hit over 1.8 Million unique visitors in July.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare Traffic Statistics

Granted, website usage isn’t the best metric as these services thrive on the mobile app experience. Analysis of the social media data is also very telling. Aside from small spikes for Gowalla when they announced their iPad app and their use of the Foursquare Places API, their mentions throughout the “blogosphere” have remained very flat.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare Popularity In Blogs

If you’ve been following the “checkin wars,” none of what I’m talking about is surprising. Foursquare has been the hottest startup in 2010 and the service to beat. Facebook Places, with an install base of over 500 million, is not as well received initially as some may have thought, but it’s way too early to call it a flop. Facebook has the money and the muscle to compete with anyone on this front and their biggest obstacle is their users who already have trust issues after previous privacy missteps.

Geolocation is a crowded space and is only getting more crowded. With very promising services on the rise such as Shopkick and SCVNGR pushing the checkin experience into valuable consumer rewards, even Foursquare shouldn’t be (and isn’t) resting on their laurels. In the end, Gowalla may end up being the next Pownce – a beautifully designed and well coded service that couldn’t break out of their small core audience and resonate on the big stage.

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Foursquare: The Game That’s a Real-Game Changer

One of the hottest trends in social media is the growth of location-aware mobile applications. With the immense popularity of the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-powered mobile devices, software developers are pushing the mobile platform forward faster than any segment of consumer electronics.

Foursquare LogoOf all the location-aware mobile applications, Foursquare is perhaps the most exciting. Foursquare was created by Dennis Crowley and Neveen Selvadurai and launched earlier this year. Crowley’s previous project, Dodgeball, was one of the pioneering social networking services for mobile devices. Dodgeball required users to text their location into the service and they would be instantly notified of friends, other Dodgeball users and points of interest all in their close vicinity. Dodgeball was purchased by Google and has since morphed into Google Latitude, Google’s up-and-coming foray into location-aware social networking still in its infancy.

Foursquare takes the basic principles behind Dodgeball but presents it in a much more robust and user-friendly way. Rather than text in one’s location, Foursquare users simply fire up the mobile application on their device and it utilizes the phone’s GPS technology and data network to presents them with a list of venues near their current location. The user selects their location from the list (or adds it if it’s not currently in the system) and they are “checked in.” By connecting to Twitter and Facebook, users can instantly and automatically alert their social networks of their location.

Foursquare doesn’t end there; Crowley and Neveen have implemented an ingenious reward system into their applications that not only encourages repeat use of the applications, but truly bridges that gap from “virtual world” to “real world.” Based on the city one is in, Foursquare users can unlocked badges basedjavascript:; on their check-ins. For example, New Yorker’s that check into a venue above 59th Street can unlock the “Far Far Away” badge. Check in to three karaoke venues unlocks you the “Don’t Stop Believin'” badge while checking in at a gym venue 10 times or more in 30 days earns you the “Gym Rat” badge.

foursquare_badges

Perhaps the most innovative feature built into Foursquare is the “Mayor” system. Users that check into a venue with the most frequency in a set period of time are tagged as the mayor of that particular venue. Aside from the bragging rights that come along with being the mayor, more and more locations are taking Foursquare off the mobile devices and into the real world by rewarding mayors with a variety of prizes. Restaurants are offering free food to the Foursquare mayor while some bars have been known to give free drinks to their respective mayors.

Foursquare users also have the option to leave a tip for others at the venue they are checked into. Whether it’s raving about a particular restaurant’s salmon dish or urging others to try the Long Island Iced Tea, Foursquare’s system is posing a real threat to popular social review services like Yelp and CitySearch.

Crowley and Selvadurai have created a system that not only is immensely fun for its users, but allows local businesses to market themselves leveraging social media in a whole new way. Whether this was truly intended or is simply a side-effect of the game’s popularity, there’s no denying that Foursquare is creating a new level of interaction between businesses and customers that is sure to be a growing trend in 2010 and beyond.


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