Gowalla, the hip but small location-based social network frequently mentioned in the same breath as market leader Foursquare, announced this morning that it is shutting down two defining features to refocus on what seems to be working.
"Items," the well-designed virtual goods that users collected and dropped for each other at the various places they checked-in at, will be eliminated due to insufficient adoption. Notes, the feature that allowed users to annotate a space with text (wonderful idea, frankly I thought it was poorly implemented), will disappear as well - though the company says they may return. In place of these features that Gowalla was known for, the company says it will release new features soon that encourage more exploration of the real world. That's been the goal all along though and I can't help but wonder if the whole scenario isn't working out as well as Gowalla and its backers hoped it would.
Virtual goods are expected, by many other people at least, to be a bonkers giant and lucrative part of the future of the mobile web.
AboutFoursquare. "It wasn't until I'd been using the service for about 6 months that I really began to understand what they were for and why they appeared randomly. From that point forward, though, they became the reason I checked in on Gowalla. The chance that I could find something I didn't already have in my pack was too much to pass up.""Virtual items, to put it nicely, were confusing," writes Chris Thompson at sector-watching blog
To be honest, I rarely found items that interested me. Maybe I needed to go to more exciting places.
Sharing knowledge about a Place, as was enabled by the Notes feature on Gowalla, may be the highest calling for a person privileged enough to declare themselves present there.
What will the Austin team of urban cowboys come up with next? I don't know, but here's hoping the soundtrack over there while all these changes are underway is more rockabilly than emo. Most outside observers seem to be seeing this news as a song that signals the beginning of the end for Gowalla. I hope that's not the case.