Location sharing company Gowalla has announced that it will shut down its services next month and that its developers will join Facebook's team in California, but said that Facebook is not acquiring Gowalla’s user data.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that Gowalla's co-founders Josh Williams and Scott Raymond, along with other members of the Gowalla team, are moving to Facebook in January to join the company's design and engineering teams.
"In talking with the Gowalla team, we realised that we share many of the same goals: building great products that reach millions of people, making a big impact quickly, and creating new ways for people to connect and share what’s going on in their lives," said the spokesperson. "While Facebook isn’t acquiring the Gowalla service or technology, we’re sure that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time."
Gowalla CEO Josh Williams said in a blog post that the company will provide an easy way for users to export their Passport data, their Stamp and Pin data (along with their legacy Item data), as well as their photos.
The announcement comes after a source close to Gowalla reportedly told CNNMoney that the Gowalla team has been brought on board to work on Facebook's new Timeline feature, which was launched at the F8 developer conference in August and is gradually being rolled out to Facebook's 800 million members.
Timeline is a complete redesign of Facebook profile pages. Rather than simply displaying the user's most recent activities, Timeline summarises past events and features the most important ones in a single page friends can scroll through. This might include posts, photos, maps and events.
Facebook Timeline users are also provided with new interface controls to filter posts according to different criteria, such as seeing only photos or calling up a specific year. They can control what appears in their timeline and add apps that show, for example, what music they listen to and what films they watch.
The source told CNNMoney that Facebook's vision for Timeline is aligned with Gowalla's vision about people telling stories. “It's a perfect match,” said the source.
Austin-based Gowalla launched in 2009, but has had difficulty competing against FourSquare in the market for location-based social check-in apps. In recent months the company has turned its focus more towards mobile travel-guides.
Gowalla has raised around $10 million (£6.4m) over the years from backers including Kevin Rose and Jason Calacanis, and VC firms such as Greylock Partners, Shasta Ventures and Founders Fund.
Meanwhile, Facebook made its own foray into location-based services last year, with the launch of Facebook Places. The service comes in the form of a smartphone application that allows users to “check-in” via GPS at whatever restaurant, event or place of interest they happen to be visiting at the time.
The app posts an update in their friends’ Facebook news feeds, as well as showing up in the recent activity section on the page for that place. Users can also view friends that have checked in nearby.
Despite speculation that Facebook’s new geolocation feature could spell trouble for existing location-based social networking services, the social networking giant's move into the space was welcomed by Gowalla's Williams.
“In a way, it was great that Facebook entered the location-based space because it took the air out of the space and it proved that you have to do something useful and creative with location,” said Williams. “It's got to be more than just 'where are my friends at?' The location-based space is much bigger than just check-ins.”