If you’ve been reading Techcrunch or Techmeme lately you know just how in love tech bloggers are with location-based services like Foursquare. Just yesterday Facebook announced its intention to check in on this hot market.
Even the major players, like Gowalla, know that they must innovate to stay relevant. Gowalla’s CEO, Josh Williams, told me yesterday in a video interview that everyone knows that the check-in gesture will be a commodity pretty quickly, if it isn’t already (even Yelp added the “check in” gesture).
Gowalla and Foursquare this morning checked in new iPhone apps, both of which make the experience of using these services a lot nicer. You can see Josh showing me Gowalla’s new iPhone app in the video here.
Why do these matter? Because of three reasons:
1. By letting the world know your location you can enable a new kind of search. Yelp will show you restaurants near you. Foursquare will show you tips near you. Gowalla will show you tours, or trips near you.
2. Several of these let you play various games, like collecting badges, or just collecting cool locations. You can show your friends all the places you checked in on your European vacation, for instance.
3. A rolodex of your friends organized by location is very powerful. I use this all the time to setup meetings near me with new execs I want to meet.
Gowalla and Foursquare aren’t the only ones trying to thrive in this space, though. Brightkite, Loopt, Whrrl, Lunch.com, and others are releasing new versions this week and are trying to find communities that will love them.
But for me the real fight this week is between Foursquare and Gowalla. I’m using both and neither has come out with a set of features that make me totally want to use one over the other.
The longer term fight (IE, between now and June) is whether any of these will be able to defend themselves against Facebook and Google.
Google’s Buzz should give some of these startups some hope. Before Buzz came out I expected it to be much more competitive with Twitter and Facebook. After it arrived we realized that Google isn’t as smart in the social arena and I thought they might be.
Already Foursquare’s co-founder is saying that Facebook is losing its “real friendness” when compared to these newer services and he does have a point, but it seems it’s way too early to poke the bear. Ask Mark Andreessen how that works out (he made Mozilla seem far more important than it actually turned out to be and woke up the Microsoft bear which proceeded to chase Mozilla off of its lawn).
Anyway, this space is white hot and the next week will decide which team or teams will get to do battle with Facebook and Google in the real test for this space.
Can this area get any hotter? Will something surprising that none of us are expecting come out at SXSW?
One thing I like is just how articulate Josh Williams of Gowalla is on this space. Anyone interested should definitely watch this video.
By the way, if you haven’t read the Google Buzz thread on this topic yet, you should. I lay out why I still like Foursquare the best there.