Thursday, 19 August 2010

It's Foursquare vs. Gowalla vs. Facebook Places... Or is it?

Yesterday, Facebook launched their new location-based features. Guess what it’s called? That’s right: Places.

A lot of people will be asking what this means in the long-term for Foursquare and Gowalla, and as usual, nay-sayers have already written both companies off as yesterday’s news, which is slightly lazy.

Who says Foursquare is finished? Not me.

Yes, Facebook is capitalising on the geo-location boom by adding the Places service to their mobile application. And yes, a lot of people new to geo-locational tagging will naturally default to that service.

But it’s all about the right mix of positive user experience, customer service and look and feel.

Yes, we know that Facebook cannibalised Myspace. But did Google Buzz cannibalise Twitter and Facebook? No, because it failed to provide a positive user experience, looked tacked-on and dated.  But it’s still here, and I’m still using it for certain purposes. Ditto for Myspace and Twitter.


People will always want choice. The choice to choose to have their email account with one of the big four providers. They understand that their information is currency, and they won’t want to channel all of that information into Facebook.

Foursquare is young and agile enough to be able to adapt their service, and maybe offer new services that Facebook in its current form cannot offer. It has a head start in building client relationships. I’ve been lucky enough to chat to both Naveen Selvadurai and Ian Clearly of Foursquare when we were getting our brands Foursquare presence and special set up, and they literally bent over backwards to help. I even spoke to somebody on the phone to help set the special up. It felt to me like it was a star-up that cared about building bridges with a brand. For all of its qualities, I just don’t feel the same about Facebook. Places just feels like a land-snatch to me, but that’s me reacting to it on an emotional level I guess.

It depends how you want your ice-cream. Do you want three different types of vanilla, or do you prefer an online strawberry sundae?


  1. Thanks for the post. Agree customers want choice. I'm for the strawberry sundae, myself, and like you use different communication tools for different purposes -- or occasionally to tap into a different crowd.

    But social networking is all about having enough members to form a critical mass, so I suspect that we will see today's plethora of LBS social networking apps getting weeded down but never becoming a four- (or three- or five-)horse race. Plus there will always be private or in-house LBS apps such as ones specific to a particular retailer or brand, brought to market as enterprise applications.

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for reading! Nice to meet another sundae socialiser (sorry, bad joke).

    You make some cracking points about private in-house LBS apps - it'll be interesting to see which companies launch their own LBS loyalty platforms - have you seen any good ones yet?

    Also, have you seen any good B2B ones too?

  3. Hey Ben, just found this thread again. I think the jury will be out for a long time on which LBS platforms win. More and more seem to come out every day.

    B2B LBS platforms have existed for a long time in the form of LBS-enabled fleet management, mobile workforce management and CRM applications. My question is when these existing platforms take a tip from the social platforms and start using check-in, game mechanics and presence/proximity features to expand the capabilities and reach of their field employees.