How Facebook Buying Gowalla Could Change The Social Media Game For Good

by Knowlton Thomas | Culture

This article was originally published on Smedio.

Have you ever wondered why Facebook is the world’s most popular social network? Is it all about the user experience? Or is it because Facebook is the undisputed choice for businesses when it comes to social media? Or perhaps because Facebook did most things right while others got it wrong? Well, I strongly believe that Facebook’s biggest strength is its’ continuous focus on innovation and its relentless focus on the ‘Change is good’ philosophy.

A social network with 700 million plus users could rest on its current laurels and make the most out of it. But that’s never been Facebook’s philosophy. On the contrary, Facebook isn’t afraid to try every trick in the bag even if it means risk annoying its users in the short term. And in a potentially game changing move, Facebook is reported to have acquired location sharing service Gowalla for an undisclosed sum.

The obvious question – Facebook already had ‘Places’ which did a decent job, then why does it need to buy another location-based service? I strongly believe there are a number of factors which come into play here.

User Experience

Even though Foursquare holds the critical mass in location-based service adoption, Gowalla has always retained a special place for itself with an emphasis on design with intricately designed interfaces and badges. While Facebook provides a wonderful UI experience, snapping up Gowalla can help further refine Facebook’s user appeal.


Gowalla is projected as the ‘perfect match’ for Facebook’s Timeline feature which is expected to be rolled out globally next year. Gowalla’s vision is about people telling stories, and Facebook’s vision for Timeline is about stories about important moments in life and the common synergies are easily evident.

Start from Scratch

Facebook expected a lot out of ‘Places’ but it wasn’t a resounding success by any means. In August, Facebook killed ‘Places’ but emphasized that it would continue to focus on location based sharing. When you have a product that you believe isn’t up to the mark, why not start from scratch rather than limiting yourself to fixing what’s broken with the existing product.

In contrast to Places, Gowalla is a pure-play location service and it would be interesting to see how Facebook integrates with it.

Kill the competition

A quick look at Facebook’s history suggests that it has a habit of buying promising startups and killing them off. Several promising startups which suffered the same fate include Beluga, Hot Potato,, Snaptu, Digital Staircase, among more than a dozen others. While critics would argue that Gowalla isn’t competition as it’s not a social network, there’s no denial that Facebook once perceived Foursquare and Gowalla as threats to Facebook Places.

All in all, Facebook snapping up Gowalla makes perfect sense to me. What do you think? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. more

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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