Gowalla shoots for 1 million users with new version of location service

December 2, 2010

Location service Gowalla launched within days of rival Foursquare in March 2009, only to see its competitor grow to more than 4 million users while Gowalla seemedGowalla 3 Activity Feed left in the dust. This summer’s introduction of Facebook’s location service, dubbed Places, didn’t help the perception that Gowalla was on a challenging road.

But Gowalla, which says it has “north of 600,000” users, has not given up. The Austin, Texas company released a revamped version of the service on Thursday that co-founder Josh Williams says will help bring its number of users to the million-mark by year’s end.

So what’s new in Gowalla 3? For one thing, you can now view check-ins by friends who use other location services, including Foursquare and Facebook Places, directly within Gowalla, as well as check-in to those services from Gowalla. That could provide a common window to keep track of the whereabouts of friends currently kept apart on separate location services.

Gowalla is also developing tools designed to make checking-in more useful, such as a new feature that lets people leave notes at specific locations. Someone checking-in to a restaurant might see a friend’s note warning them to steer clear of the egg-salad sandwich, for example, or a note recommending the margaritas.

And Gowalla has done some work to make checking-in easier and quicker, so that you don’t have to waste 45 seconds fiddling with your cell phone.

While many of Gowalla’s rivals are partnering with merchants to offer discounts to people who check-in, Williams says Gowalla is keener on content than coupons. The goal, he says, is to make Gowalla a sort of social networking-enhanced travel guide.

The new version of that travel guide, Gowalla 3, is initially being released only as an iPhone app.

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