Facebook Goes Geo (again)
So far this year Facebook has bought six companies ranging from the mobile app developer, Snaptu, to the mobile advertising firm, Rel8tion. One acquisition, Beluga, whose business centred on group messaging, was eventually integrated into the Facebook Messenger app.
The most recent acquisition – announced this week – is the purchase of small geosocial networking service, Gowalla. Gowalla never realised the popularity of the main player in the geosocial space, Foursquare. This news is particularly interesting as it was only in August that Facebook dumped its own geosocial offering, the aptly named Places. While they may have cleared out the Places name, Facebook didn’t get rid of all location features, integrating some of them with their main product and de-emphasizing check-ins in favour of providing location data alongside status updates.
Gowalla had moved away from the check-in style updates, allowing its users to create ‘Stories’ – a time based feed showcasing check-in and photos from a particular group of friends – around the places they’ve visited with friends. Their wealth of user data has also allowed them to create guides for major cities, highlighting the most popular places to go and showing images of what other users have done there.
Gowalla’s Stories are similar in concept to Facebook’s new Timeline feature, which at the moment is a reverse chronological feed. It is more than likely that Facebook are looking to further develop Timeline, which was launched earlier this week in New Zealand and currently being rolled out to users. The co-founders of Gowalla have already announced they are moving to Palo Alto to join the Facebook team but the service is not being integrated into Facebook and neither is the technology behind it. Instead Gowalla will be quietly shut down in January.
Facebook, have stated that they hope that the ‘inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook’, indicating that the purchase has been more about hiring and IP than acquiring a service. It will be extremely interesting to see how and where this ‘inspiration’ works its way into Facebook and how the Timeline feature is developed and whether we’ll see crowdsourced guidebooks and group timelines on Facebook in the future.