Oneupweb Reviews: Gowalla

Oneupweb has been following location based services Foursquare and Gowalla closely, and it’s hard to say which one we prefer. However, we’ve recently discovered a Gowalla feature that might just push it over the edge; and with Foursquare lacking this feature, it could become a deal breaker.

Today lets take a deeper look at Gowalla, and see how it compares to its (currently) more popular counterpart, Foursquare.

I think for the most part we all know how location based services work. You install an app on your mobile phone, so when you are physically at a particular location you check-in, which enables you to share the places that you’ve been with your friends. It can be a lot of fun sharing where you have been with friends, which is why these services have become so popular. Check out video below to see Gowalla in action.

In the Gowalla navigation you can choose from Spots, Trips, or Friends. Spots allow you to see the places that people have checked-in in your area.

Trips are adventures, created by users, that you can participate in. You can also create your own trips.

With the trip above you can take a stroll across Harvard Yard, and check-in at some of the historical spots.

I can see local businesses really benefiting from the abilities that location based services offer. There is one small problem that we have noticed with Foursquare, and that is, you can check into a location without actually being there. With businesses looking to offer rewards to users for check-ins, you can see this (lack of accountability) poses a problem. If someone wanted to take advantage of this loophole they could with Foursquare, but not Gowalla.

According to Gowalla investor Chris Sacca, Foursquare has a spam problem. Which leads people to believe that Foursquare is more popular than Gowalla. He argues that it’s not that more people are using Foursquare, but that people are able to take advantage of the loophole.

• “Publishing to Twitter is the default behavior in Foursquare…So counting 4sq’s pushes to Twitter only really measures the aggressiveness of their app, not its true reach.”
• “Spam, and their write API definitely skew their overall checkin count”
• “This is compounded by Foursquare’s refusal to build any true accountability into their checkin system. You can essentially check yourself in wherever you’d like, regardless of where you actually happen to be.”

Foursquare’s founder Dennis Crowley immediately rebutted these spam assertions and defended the user-driven check-ins:

“what spamming problem? there’s a few fake checkins here and there but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s constantly 5-6 venues with 100+ checkins. people down here [SXSW] chosing where to go not based on party schedule but venues are trending on 4sq….we ll always let people checkin wherever they want… people are often more accurate than gps :)”

I like the idea of having some accountability to people’s actions, and was shocked when I first found out that Foursquare was that easy to cheat. When I realized that the check-ins I had been seeing in my area might have been fake, it just wasn’t the same after that.

I think in the future we might see more people using Gowalla for this very reason. For many, the realization that there is no accountability with Foursquare check-ins, will lead them to the same conclusion I came to. But I like where Gowalla is going with their service. Offering people the same abilities as Foursquare but with the added accountability, and for that I give Gowalla…

Oneupweb Official Review: Thumbs Up!