So for a long time, I’ve been a Gowalla fan for all my ‘location tagging’ social needs. In fact, some might have called me a fan of it. You see, ‘many years ago’ when I worked at Digg.com, Foursquare came out. It seemed like a neat service and concept and tons of my fellow Digg employees loved it.
Thing is, they lived in San Francisco. Foursquare only worked if you where in one of a certain set of big metropolitan areas. I live in the boonies comparatively and so it was completely useless to me. I shrugged and went back to a ‘location tagging-less’ world.
Now, Foursquare wasn’t the first service out there either, Dodgeball and Brightkite both come to mind as services that ‘tried’ before. But Foursquare was starting to get traction.
Fast forward a year, and Gowalla comes out. It has a really nice clean interface, works well (more on that later), adds in the ‘game’ aspect of collecting/dropping items, but most importantly, it allows any user (me) to create any spot.
This is amazing and I become a fan. Suddenly I can start creating spots all around me, I go back to their website, I curate them, tweak their position, adjust their radius, and have a grand time of it. During this time, Foursquare gets bigger, more marketshare, and they quickly ‘catch up’. By the time I realize tons of my friends are on Foursquare and I try it again, they’ve got the whole ‘points system’ game going, Mayorships are ‘the thing’ and even special deals are being offered by companies to their Mayor. But most of all, they fix the problem of ‘boonies’. It works near me. In fact, they ‘one-upped’ Gowalla, and appear to have auto-inserted every business name that you could possibly google for.
Now, I didn’t bother considering switching, who cared, I used Gowalla and I liked it.
Until recently. What happened? Simply put, Gowalla stopped working for me. I constantly started running into the fact that I couldn’t check in at the location I was physically at. I’d be sitting in a restaurant, half-way through my meal, and go “Oh yeah, I should check in”. I’d pull up Gowalla, but since it couldn’t get a GPS lock indoors, it would do cell tower triangulation. Now Gowalla thought I was 0.5 miles farther away than I really was. This is a problem since Gowalla requires you to be on top of the location to check in. The only way I could check in, would be to walk outside, check in, then go back into the building.
Not to mention that it had a similar issue if there were lots of locations near you. It would only let you scroll 2 pages or so of locations, so go to an airport where there is a location for every store, every gate, every everything. And you’d gamble as to whether the place you wanted to check into actually came up.
Simply put. They broke the ONE thing that you are supposed to do with the service. Check in at the location you are at.
I got so frustrated at one point, and some friends of mine at HiiDef were talking about Foursquare again, so I tried it out, and fell in love. I can always check in at whatever location I’m at. It presents a nice simple list, and I can even search for it by name. I’ve never had an issue checking in. And that’s the ONE thing you want to work.
So if you recently got a friend invite from me for Foursquare, now you know why. I bought in hook/line/sinker, and removed Gowalla from my phone.