Today we received confirmation that Facebook is officially hiring Gowalla's engineers and designers. They will move to Facebook in January.
Facebook is not acquiring the actual Gowalla service or the technology behind it. Gowalla states that Facebook will not inherit any of Gowalla's user data, and that it will soon provide users a way to export their Passport data, Stamp and Pin data (along with legacy Item data) and photos. What does the end of Gowalla mean for the launch of Facebook's Timeline feature and the new era of lifestreaming?
Gowalla started out as a sort of way to collect your memories based on location. CEO Josh Williams writes somewhat of a eulogy to Gowalla in the "it's official news!" blog post that went live today:
Three years ago Gowalla's journey began when I took a photograph of Lake Tahoe on my iPhone. I had just finished a phone call with my dad, and I wanted nothing more than to share that photo and place with him. Not just in a text message or status update sort of way, but with a bit of weight that said "I wish you were here" and "this moment and place are meaningful to me."
And thus, Gowalla was born.
The year 2010 was the year of the neighborhood. It was all about geosocial gaming, and the three major contenders were Gowalla, Foursquare and MyTown. Facebook added its Places feature in early 2010. A year later, Facebook added event check-ins and places maps to its iPhone app. Today, in the Facebook pre-Timeline era, Facebook users experience the Places feature more as a way to tack location onto a status update than to actually check-in and tell a story around that location.
As such, location became a hazy category that was getting baked into platforms and operating systems rather than standing on its own.
According to RWW's Marshall Kirkpatrick, location-based social networks have three primary reasons for use: Serendipitous and planned social connections around town, game-play and bragging about the cool places you've been and as a personal travel history tracker a.k.a. lazy diary. In other words, there is always a story behind the place. Facebook Places didn't translate that, however.
Picking up Gowalla's engineers and designers may speed up Facebook's very stalled transition to Timeline. But more importantly, it will more clearly change Facebook's status from a social network to an online space for storytelling. It will help usher in the new era of life-streaming - and, now users' data will be entirely centralized.
So, will Facebook finally become your one true login?