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Summary:

Geo-local services were the center of attention at South by South West. Thanks to all the hoopla, Foursquare and Gowalla, the two major competing geo-location services managed to snag tens of thousands of new subscribers. Both companies had released updates to their apps before the event.

Geo-local services were the center of attention before the recently concluded South by South West, an annual gathering of folks from technology, music and movie worlds. With the pre-event hype dubbing the competition between the various players as geo-wars.

It is not clear who really won the derby, one thing is for sure — all the hoopla helped Foursquare and Gowalla, the two major competing geo-location services snag tens of thousands of new subscribers following the event. Both companies had released updates to their apps ahead of the SxSW.

Dennis Crowley, co-founder of New York City-based Foursquare said that during the five days of SxSW, his company signed up approximately 75,000 new subscribers. The company has signed up 100,000 new users over past 10 days he said. The company is now said to have over 600,000 users.

Foursquare’s competitor, Austin-based Gowalla signed up tens of thousands of new subscribers, co-founder Josh Williams told me via an email. The company is likely to release new stats this coming week. Both Gowalla and Foursquare have benefitted handsomely from the popularity of the iPhone and the App phenomenon.

For example, nearly 88 percent of Gowalla users come to the service via the iPhone, while Android accounts for 10 percent of its user base. WebOS accounts for 2 percent of GoWalla users. Android and WebOS clients have been available for approximately two weeks.

Crowley told me that nearly 66 percent of his new sign-ups over the past ten days were using the iPhone. Blackberry accounted for nearly 16 percent of the total new sign-ups and Android accounted for about 10 percent of the total. Other platforms including the mobile web, third party apps, Palm and Nokia were about 7.5 percent of the total sign-ups.

In an unscientific shoot-out of 11 location-based services, LBS Zone, a blog devoted to location based services, ranked Gowalla as the most accurate while Foursquare came in at the 9th spot. As I said, this is not an accurate test, but still I thought it would be good to share the results with you.

Related:

* Will 2010 Finally Be the Year of Location?
* GigaOM Video: Gowalla CEO Josh Williams
* Why MyTown Is Bigger Than Foursquare & Gowalla.
* Why I Love Foursquare.

Related research from GigaOM Pro:

* Location: The Epicenter of Mobile Innovation (sub required)

  1. Foursquare is WAY ahead in the SXSW audience in my experience. It was seeing two to four times more checkins at the conference (I was watching religiously) and on my account I have more than 7,000 friends on Foursquare and only 2,000 on Gowalla (most of which have joined in past 10 days).

    Now that we’re home we see that Gowalla has pretty UI, but doesn’t show you people close to you like Foursquare does and Foursquare has more tips.

    I like the Gowalla team, but they really need to add value to have a shot at surviving the coming fight with Facebook.

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    1. Robert

      I have to say I actually like the new UI from Gowalla and the Foursquare’s new app isn’t that hot. That said, both services are seriously lacking in long term utility. I am getting bored of constantly checking in and the return on investment of effort, time is just not obvious any more. They both need to quickly innovate and add to the overall fun of these two apps.

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      1. How do you guys view new functionality that might let you check-in across several of these services? Also, do you think the also-rans, Britekite, Whrrl, and even Yelp’s check-in services will just die or get energized by local, mobile advertising? … or Britekite’s announcement that you could check-in to many services via their app. Lastly, we have a nice local app in Atlanta, name ScoutMob, that is gaining traction on local coupons, delivered via the Web and a mobile app.

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    2. I have to agree with Robert on Foursquare leading the Thumb Wars at SXSW. I tracked a number of venues on both GW and FS beginning March 5th and ending March 21st. FS clearly lead the way in pure user volume.

      Interestingly, places like Stubb’s BBQ picked up more than 4,500 check-ins during the show between both services. Yesterday, between the two services, Stubb’s saw 6 check-ins.

      I think Om is on to something about the lack of long-term utility of these services on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps, these companies need to focus on niche events like SXSW where they can capitalize on hordes of location-specific attendees and possibly capture revenue from vendors and venues looking to showcase their wares to those people.

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      1. Your evidence is anecdotal and incorrect. http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/14/foursquare-gowalla-location-war/. The services are actually in a dead heat.

        I doubt that Twitter will buy either of these. So, when they make their own (and they will), both will die a slow death. It’s inevitable. When Twitter has an IPO, Tweetdeck, Seesmic, and these services will fade away as Twitter competes directly with them and wins. Nobody wants to use 2,000 apps that do the same thing, and when you stop being able tweet where you are with Foursquare (inevitable when Twitter has shareholders to please) people will only use the Twitter equivalent to Foursquare and it will eventually die.

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  2. “Now that we’re home we see that Gowalla has pretty UI, but doesn’t show you people close to you like Foursquare does and Foursquare has more tips.”

    Not yet, but it will. We know this because Jason Calacanis (and other tech leaders) have invested in it, and they won’t allow it to be second rate. Gowalla has some advantages over Foursquare, one of which is that you can’t pretend to sign into locations.

    @Om, I don’t think people will get bored of either very quickly because of the game built around it. They’ll probably just get more addicted to it.

    @Robert, your anecdotal evidence is interesting because the services are actually in a statistical heat: http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/14/foursquare-gowalla-location-war/. Don’t you think JCal’s presence as an investor will ultimately push Gowalla ahead?

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  3. Both services are lacking in any real utility. They are digital toys for bloggers to write about and VC’s to dream about. They all got a bump because all of the tech bloggers wrote about them incessantly, leading up to the event. Boring.

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  4. I love four square but the whole geo thing is a little big brothery. don’t you think? I agree with the poster below that the utility is very questionable

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  5. It doesn’t come as a suprise to see majority of the traffic and sign ups coming from the iphone which still has a solid lock on social mobile apps and apps in general.
    I predict that Gowalla and Foursquare will merge oneday to become one big location based company and then it will be very difficult for new players to enter in this space

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  6. Big fan of Gowalla (gave Foursquare a fair shot after watching this video http://www.tubehome.com/watch/the-check-in-war-gowalla-vs-foursquare-appjudgment/2 , but they took too long to add features and cities that Gowalla launched with).
    well, tastes differ, but as far as I understood most professionals prefer Foursquare.

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  7. They both need to quickly innovate and add to the overall fun of these two apps.

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