Facebook snaps up Gowalla for location-based boost

Krystal Peak · December 5, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2255

Check-in, travel guide startup is the latest Facebook acquisition

While Facebook is a powerhouse of growth and innovation, it often gets a boost of new tech and talented developers through acquisitions. The social networking giant has just acquired the location-based company Gowalla, according to Gowalla's blog.

The Austin-based tech company is known as a rival to the better-known Foursquare, with a recently launched travel-guide focus for people to discover great lesser-known spots when moving in an unfamiliar city. This travel-guide focus came after the company found it hard to gain followers that were familiar with Foursquare and saw little difference in the models. More funding and users followed the travel-based refocusing.

The blog, authored by Co-founder and CEO Josh Williams, confirmed the rumours that CNNMoney posted Friday. The young company as acquired by the social network giant. Williams pointed out that Co-founder Scott Raymond and the team were "blown away" by Facebook developments when in attendance at f8 a few months ago. Then, a few weeks later, they got the call from Facebook with interest in purchasing the company.

It became clear that the way for our team to have the biggest impact was to work together," Williams wrote in the blog. "So we’re excited to announce that we’ll be making the journey to California to join Facebook!"

The services offered by Gowalla will be discontinued in January -- much like is expected when a company is acquired by Facebook, since the company likes to completely integrate and not coexist with services it uses.

The company plans to offer a way for current users to export their data and pictures -- and that "Facebook is not acquiring Gowalla’s user data."

Launched in 2009, Gowalla had raised near $10 million over the years from backers including the Founders Fund, Greylock Partners and a collection of angel investors.

Facebook's move into location started in the summer of 2010 with its introduction of Facebook Places, which allows users to user their mobile phone to "check in"  to places they go, like a restaurant, pub or movie theater. Around the same time, it purchased social-media sign-in service Hot Potato for a reported $10 million.

Facebook has been a pretty active acquirer since, having purchased other start-ups like Nextstop, Snaptu, Sofa, and Drop.io. Beluga, a recent Facebook acquisition, is on its way to shut-down status as the social behemoth integrates its services for Facebook Messages.

Snaptu, a mobile app developer, in March was acquired for an estimate $60 million - $70 million. Also a travel recommendation company Nextstop was acquired by Facebook July for an undisclosed amount.

Most of these acquistions resulted in closing of the original service so that Facebook could integrate services and talent from the companies into its growing social network services.

What might change on Facebook

Some are excited to see if the addition of Gowalla technology will boost the, already existent but rudimentary, check-ins on Facebook.

Perhaps this would have deeper intragation so that when Facebook users check-in, they can be notified of friends in the area or great coffee spots that friends have been to (a popular new feature offered by Foursquare's radar.)

Since the f8 conference earlier this fall, Facebook has been a-buzz with more geo-tagging and other location interaction. From QR codes, to badges, check-ins and offering RFID tags to locate where in a conference or gathering people are (for even more specific followers.)

Location-based information has been on the rise for the last three years as Twitter, Facebook, Fwix and other services have encouraged people and publishers to geo-tag their content so that people can aggrigate and organize information based on where in the world they are -- or want to go.

The RFID tags that were available that the f8 conference were a big hit, and let people in on the service that Facebook uses at its headquarters. For people to use it, they took the tag connected to their conference badges and register it online -- then everytime they swipped the tag, they were digitally check-in and could opt-in to be tagges in photos.

As location services become a deeper integration into most online and shared content, Facebook and other companies are using this wave of change to visualize and share infromation with people.

Neither company was immediately available for comment.


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