So I’ve been using Gowalla and Foursquare a little while now – to experiment and evaluate, and I’m still doing just that. It feels, however, that I have managed to get a basic sense of the two location-based services (LBS). Internationally, which I interpret as in the US, Foursquare is kicking Gowalla’s butt, at least number-wise. Foursquare have as of today 4 million users while Gowalla boasts a mere 600,000. Looking at just Sweden, I’m not sure which one is the biggest. I will therefore make a very subjective assessment of the two services from a user perspective.
I really prefer the look and feel of Gowalla compared to Foursquare. Have a peek at the “front page” of the two apps below. Foursquare has a map icon but Gowalla does the feed a bit sleeker.
Checking into places, what’s it’s all about, is also a bit different. Of course the basics are the same, where are you and what are you doing there. In Foursquare you can choose to share this with your friends or not. In Gowalla your friends get the update but you can choose to also send this update to Twitter and Facebook (if you’ve connected them). This is nifty if you sometimes, some places, what to give a shout out (or brag) to your tweeps or FB friends.
Since it’s all about places, places is a big part of the functionality. Here Foursquare beats Gowalla in my opinion. As you can see below, in Gowalla there’s often duplicates and I find myself always looking for the right spot with the most check-ins. Foursquare is more precise and usually have one correct spot, often with an address as well.
Looking at what businesses are doing, it’s like with the user base and thus number of friends you’ll have, depending on where you’re at. In the states more and more business are joining forces with the location based social gaming. In Sweden Ica had a Gowalla campaign with a store opening and H&M are now saying that you can unlock discounts on Foursquare. Below you see H&M’s coupon or what you can call it, next to it is what I think can be an even more fun way of engaging your fans. Svenska Spel (the Swedish state-owned gambling company) has launched a trip on Gowalla. Check in on at least three hockey arenas and answer a question to get a couple of tickets for a match, a nice and fun way to reward your fans – Sweden’s hockey nuts.
I mentioned the Trips in Gowalla and that’s one thing that I believe can bring me value from LBS. I like exploring and trips can help me discover new spots and… well trips. The hockey trip is one example but there’s a lot more, both commercial and non-commercial. You can even create your own trips and show your friends new discoveries that way.
Foursquare has an even better take on this with their Tips. On every spot you can tip your friends or other visitors on whatever you like – that special order not on the menu, or a favorite dish, best corner, well you know I’m all about eating out but you get the picture. Another neat thing is that when you check in near a place where a friend of yours has left a tip it gets displayed – like “Mr. Smith says the coffee around the corner is awesome”. You can of course list all tips nearby as well. As you can see, they also have a to-do list, nice but nothing I’m using very much at the moment.
Wrapping up I still prefer Gowalla. If they were to add the Tips-function from Foursquare and cleaned up their spots – then I’m all in. Nevertheless, in the end it all comes down to where your friends are. If one service is the shiznit but no friends are there, what’s it good for? For me, Gowalla is where it’s all at. Seems like Sweden is a Gowalla country after all, or what’s your experience?