It’s not enough to have a glossy location gaming product, it needs to actually benefit the consumer. Sure, early adopters will get behind something because it’s the new thing, but for the mainstream to adopt something and for it to stick, there has to be more than the “this is kinda cool” factor.
Gowalla has been loosing the location wars for this reason. Whilst they started before Foursquare, and unlike Foursquare, did not limit users to unlocked cities to begin with, Gowalla made the fundamental mistake of creating easily the coolest and most pretty service, but the least beneficial. On what actually matters for sustained usage, Foursquare beat them on all points:
- Foursquare saved you money. Gowalla didn’t.
- Foursquare was competitive and therefore an actual game. Gowalla wasn’t – it was more of a treasure hunt, but you couldn’t compare the treasure.
- Foursquare gave non-financial status in the form of “Mayor”. Gowalla took too long to.
- Foursquare was socially played. Gowalla was always individual.
The latest from Gowalla, as Mashable reports, is that it now is integrated with Facebook Places and with Foursquare, meaning “Gowalla even lets you earn Foursquare badges and Facebook Deals through the iPhone app. As an added bonus, Gowalla also pulls in Foursquare Tips whenever you check in.”
Right App for the Wrong Time
Whilst I admire Gowalla’s move to embrace a “complete rather than compete” position, I think it’s the nail in the coffin as it marks the end of their competitive mindset. Only when the leader in the market goes all open does it work in a organisations favour. Foursquare is still something like 10 times bigger than Gowalla, and Facebook is waaaaay bigger than Foursquare. Why would anyone but the innovating few use Gowalla to do what the Foursquare app that they like already does? And remember, geeks often don’t care much for design as much as I love how Gowalla looks and feels.
Most of all, it’s decision to, as CEO Josh Williams says, be a “socially curated guidebook” is a fundamental misunderstanding of where the market is today. Sure, one day, we will use apps to find new walks and new places to go. But for now, even the most early adopting of us don’t use them to find new places, and neither do the early majority trust an app to follow around someone’s suggested walk or new location to check out. In years to come – maybe. Today – no – unless it saves me money – and then I’d just roll with Fourquare or Facebook.
Josh just didn’t realise that early adopters are time poor and the early majority are trust poor, meaning Gowalla is just going to stay poor.
Gowalla over and out.
Your Leading Thoughts
- Does Foursquare, in your opinion, beat Gowalla on all those points? And is Foursquare also being beaten by Facebook? Why?
- Forget long term for a second – right now, what is the winning factor for location services that will enable to stick around long enough to think long term?