October 3, 2011

Farewell Gowalla

There are quite a few location-aware smartphone apps out there and one that I used to enjoy immensely was Gowalla.  Sure, it wasn't Foursquare, but that is what was so great about it.  Gowalla wasn't about being king of your local haunts.  It was about getting out in the world and seeing things.

Gowalla was basically a virtual passport.  You could tour the world or your neighborhood and check into places along the way.  You got stamps for the places you went.  Most places the stamps were the same, like coffee shops all shared the same stamp.  Some businesses and location bought their won custom stamp and there were pins for completing specific challenges or going to new locations.  I liked checking into a new state and getting that states pin.  My only disappointment was that I didn't discover Gowalla when I was travelling a lot.

Another aspect of Gowalla I really enjoyed was that there were items to collect.  When you checked in, there was a chance you'd pick up an item and the type of item you got was based on the location.  You could archive the item into your collection or you could cart it around.  You could carry up to ten items and if a location had an item there you could swap it out with one in your app.  Essentially every spot was a virtual geocache.  I loved this aspect of the app and collecting became a game for me.  On vacation or a trip I would go out of my way to see a specific spot to check in or if I knew there might be an item I didn't have yet, I would see if I could check in and trade for it.  New items came out every couple of weeks.

I worked very diligently to get all the items I could.  On one trip I detoured to a Presidential Library just so I could check in and get a moon rock.  The only place you could find a moon rock was at a location that actually had a moon rock on display.  I never would have gone to this place otherwise.  I had essentially all but a few of the publicly available items.

Recently Gowalla did away with the item collecting.  They stated they would allow users to keep what they had collected, but my passport is essentially gone.  I can see some of my location pins and that is it.  The entire app and website has been totally redesigned and their focus is on location guides and "stories".  Basically they can point out cool places to visit if you are lucky enough to be somewhere Gowalla cares about and you can tweet about being someplace.

When you check in to a place, Gowalla wants you to type something about your visit.  They are calling this combination of information and location a "story" and your friends can chime in.

Let me get this straight......you turned an awesome app and social travel tool into a brief info post tied to a location.  Have you not seen Twitter before?  For much less bandwidth (ie. time and data) I can simply open my choice of Twitter app, type 160 characters and have the program automatically affix my GPS coordinates.  What is your value proposition Gowalla?  A slow loading screen?  Telling my friends where I am before they read my post?

Fail......EPIC FAIL.

On the plus side, my iPhone screen is less cluttered since I deleted my Gowalla app, the link I had to their website, and two apps i had for helping me find items.

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