As Check-Ins Fizzle Out, Gowalla Pivots

Check-in services like Gowalla and Foursquare were the most hyped kinds of apps of 2010, but for the most part, it has become pretty clear that mainstream users don’t care a lot about checking in. It makes sense then, that Gowalla today announced a major reshuffling of its feature set at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco today. Instead of focussing on checking in, the new Gowalla now puts an emphasis on sharing “stories” and building travel logs. Also among the new features are “guides,” which are “curated travel guides for numerous cities around the world.”

Just a few weeks ago, Gowalla also announced that it was planning to jettison most of its gaming features. The company clearly saw that its current feature set didn’t allow it to compete with FourSquare, which has become the largest player in this space (even though it, too, doesn’t have a lot of mainstream traction).

A Small Pivot for Gowalla – A Harbinger for the Check-In Space

What seems like a small pivot is actually a harbinger for the check-in space in general. Checking in is, at best, a feature and can’t be the central focus of a service as only a small minority of potential users will bother to check in when they get to a new location. What users do want to do, though, is to share photos (also a feature that the new Gowalla highlights) and their stories.

Gowalla’s move sounds like a smart pivot away from the basic check-in model and towards a more sustainable and interesting concept. Gowalla already had some travel-focused features in its earlier incarnations, but this new version pushes these ideas further. Thanks to these earlier features, Gowalla also has a number of partnerships with companies like National Geographic that will now also become partners around its “guides” feature.