Gowalla is primarily known as an iPhone app that encourages people to check in to various locations with their phones.But during a recent visit to SAI, CEO Josh Williams told us that he wants more people going to Gowalla’s website on their desktop computers.
He says on the desktop, users can do more sharing of photos, and more commenting on locations.
“There’s certainly a real-time aspect to Gowalla, but there’s also a historical aspect. We want people to remember where the hottest spots were in Austin in 2009, or when they were at New York Knicks games,” says Josh.
As Josh, and his cofounder Scott Raymond talked about Gowalla, it sounded more and more like the company wants to build a social network like Facebook. Sharing photos on Facebook is huge. Commenting on the photos is also huge.
When we asked him directly about what Gowalla would do to differentiate itself from Facebook, Josh said, “Facebook got everyone into the mindset that sharing is good. Our strength is that we have a whimsical fun element. We get people to leave the house to go somewhere new. It’s like putting a sticker on your suitcase, it’s an award. Facebook isn’t going to do that. Gowalla wants people sharing location.”
Here was our advice for Gowalla: Don’t try to compete with Facebook (you won’t win), try instead to piggy-back on Facebook’s massive scale. Reinvent Gowalla as the check-in app for Facebook users.
Gowalla has approximately 250,000 users. It’ grown its user base by 63% in the last month, and it’s had 100,000 photos added to the site in the last month as well. Users have checked in at 170 countries around the world.
Gowalla could turbocharge those numbers if it became the best app mobile phone users who want to create and geo-locate Facebook photo albums. There could also be a real business in rewarding users for creating these albums with coupons from local businesses. The Facebook News Feeds would be a huge steroid for Gowalla’s growth.
Right now, Facebook doesn’t allow third-party apps to create and geo-locate Facebook photo albums. The Gowalla team told us it’s rooting for that to change.
In related news, Josh told us Gowalla has grown its staff from 10 to 18 people in the last year. When asked if Gowalla was due for a new round, Josh deflected. He said Gowalla would consider an “opportunistic” round, but that he’s “not pounding the pavement” looking for cash.
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