Gowalla tries to beat Foursquare by joining it

gowalla_checkin.top.jpgGowalla's new update features icons and links to Twitter, Facebook Places, Foursquare and Tumblr. By Laurie Segall, CNNMoney staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The newest update to location-based networking service Gowalla adds a surprising feature: automatic check-ins on Foursquare, Gowalla's much-larger archrival.

The two startups are battling it out in one of the tech field's most closely watched spaces. Through GPS-enabled smartphones and other devices, location services let users broadcast their whereabouts and favorite hangout spots to chosen groups of friends -- or, for the uninhibited, the world at large.

They currently draw a small audience: 4% of online adults use "geosocial" sites like Foursquare, according to a Pew Research Center study released this month.

But like Facebook and Twitter, which started off with niche userships before crossing over into the mainstream, the services are growing extremely fast. Foursquare has nearly 5 million members; Gowalla trails it with 600,000.

Gowalla 3, rolling out Thursday, introduces a "universal activity feed" that shows your friends' check-ins on Gowalla as well as Facebook Places, Foursquare and Tumblr. Users can choose to send their own Gowalla check-ins out to those other sites as well.

The aim was to "create a solution that allows people to connect with all these services without having to launch four different apps," says Josh Williams, Gowalla's CEO. "We're still early enough in the space that everyone has a different flavor and take on it. Different people are going to migrate to different services."

Anil Dash, a prominent blogger and social media maven, sees Gowalla's Foursquare embrace as way to piggyback on its rival's platform.

"It's not too different from what Microsoft did when they were behind in the browser market or the spreadsheet market," Dash says. "If it succeeds, then Gowalla commoditizes the act of checking in, and can build a platform on top of that."

Sam Altman -- founder of Loopt, one of the earliest players in the geosocial field -- says the biggest boon for Gowalla will be the ability to pull in check-ins from Foursquare.

"If not very many of my friends use Gowalla but I like the app, now I can use it and see where my friends are if they use Facebook and Foursquare," he says. Loopt is a fan of integration: When Facebook Places rolled out earlier this year, it linked up with the new service.

Robert Scoble, an employee at RackSpace (RAX) who tracks startups, sees the move as Gowalla's bid to stand out in an increasingly crowded app scrum.

"It's an admission 'we're not going to be the place to get deals, but we'll be the coolest client for doing this,'" he says.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,393.16 5.95 0.03%
Nasdaq 4,694.31 12.81 0.27%
S&P 500 2,028.45 -1.10 -0.05%
Treasuries 1.79 -0.03 -1.86%
Data as of 10:49am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 117.45 8.31 7.61%
Yahoo! Inc 48.87 0.88 1.83%
Bank of America Corp... 15.48 -0.16 -0.99%
Microsoft Corp 42.28 -0.38 -0.88%
AT&T Inc 33.25 0.44 1.34%
Data as of 10:35am ET

Sections

Ford recalls 205,000 cars, including Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Interceptor police sedans. There's a problem with the door handle which could cause the door to come unlatched in an accident. More

Estimates from experts vary between $500 million and $1 billion, but analyst Evan Gold echoed the sentiment of his peers: it "wasn't a big deal." More

During Apple's record-setting quarter, it sold more iPhones than BlackBerry sold smartphones over the past three years. More

On demand delivery startup WunWun is expecting its order volume to double by the time they close up shop on Monday. All thanks to a blizzard. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.