Facebook’s Gowalla talent acquisition.

# Location is changing and the impact of Gowalla's acquisition by Facebook could be felt for a long time to come.


The move from Facebook Places to built-in location being attached to every status heralded a very definite change in direction as far as the use of location was concerned.

I wrote back in August that the transition away from traditional check-ins was potentially huge and that the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla should be concerned rather than celebrate.

Now that the players in the market for traditional check-ins is going to be minus a service perhaps it is time to be more worried than ever.

Context is key

It is interesting to read Josh Williams' comments on the Gowalla blog that the service was formed after a realisation that he wanted to share a moment by more than just a text message or status update, but by something with a bit of weight behind it, i.e some meaningful context.

A check-in on its own is an isolated experience without context and I argued that Facebook's move to integrate location was a way for everyone to provide the context required to make it more meaningful.

The acquisition of Gowalla's talent should serve to take this concept much further. While the user base and technology are not part of the deal there is no doubt that a lot of what makes Gowalla will find a new home within Facebook's walls; just look at the influence FriendFeed had on the news feed after being purchased.

Better facility within a status update to link content to a location (what I referred to as multi-purpose posts) will sit perfectly with the Timeline once it is finally launched.

The Timeline itself is designed as a history of who you are and what you have done so adding where you did it us a perfect extension of the principal.


Location has gone slightly by the wayside while the rest of the recent changes have been, quite justifiably, taking centre stage. Places still exist but are currently in a state of limbo with confused functionality around their creation and use (especially for brands) that the help files don't assist in making any clearer.

Considering the timescales involved (as mentioned in Josh's post) it would seem that Facebook always had plans for location but maybe had neither the time nor expertise to build what was required. The apparent similarity between Josh's description of Gowalla and the vision of location within Facebook make the two a perfect fit.

Our digital scrapbook

After revealing the Timeline at F8 Facebook's failure to launch has come in for some criticism and comment. An apparent "softly, softly" approach combined with some concerns over privacy seemed to be the cause but could Facebook also have been waiting for confirmation that a location aspect inspired by the Gowalla acquisition would become a reality?

Irrespective of this, the court case with site timelines.com, which alleges that the launch of the timeline feature will destroy its business, means that we are unlikely to see a launch for some time to come. It, therefore, remains to be seen if the impact of the Gowalla talent acquisition is felt separately or if we will have to wait for the arrival of Timelines whatever they may become.

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