It’s bittersweet news to hear that Gowalla, a Texas-based location “check in” internet application, has sold out to Facebook. It’s been officially termed an “acqui-hire“, meaning that Gowalla’s founders are cashing in and joining forces with Facebook, while shutting down the Gowalla application.
Gowalla wasn’t keeping up with arch-competitor Foursquare and had refocused its efforts more on the passport or travel souvenir idea, which had less short term appeal to brands and advertisers. In fact, I found the latest version somewhat confusing. Instead of a simple check in, it asked its fans to “tell a story.” Even simple user interface changes can scare off users.
But Gowalla was always best at design, whether it was their whimsical kangaroo logo, their colorful state badges, or their city guide logos. At South By Southwest, it was the Gowalla custom t-shirts everyone was clamoring for. The mystery now is whether the design talent that distinguished Gowalla will flourish inside Facebook, or whether it will be asbsorbed and marginalized as occurs with so many entrepreneurs and acquisitions. That design talent might add some fun to Facebook and help them “loosen up” their staid branding guidelines. Only time will tell. For now, let’s commemorate the colorful Gowalla Dallas logo featured in their on-line Dallas guide.