While competitor Foursquare gets all the media and marketplace attention, Gowalla continues to plug along in the location check-in space, and is rolling out some updates for its Spot pages for places as way of making them easier to browse and providing more content for users who visit them. The improvements, while not ground-breaking, typify the steady progress of Gowalla — but is that kind of steady progress enough in such a fast-growing and competitive space?
Gowalla says its Spot Pages have been redesigned to make photos more prominent, and the “people view” and “Spot activity” easier to browse, and the Spot map also pulls up an interactive view and offers directions now when clicked. Sharing and bookmarking options are also easier to find, and highlights — a list of interesting labels for Spots — has been expanded to almost 40, and can now be added directly from a Spots page. An upcoming improvement to the iPhone app next week will allow users to browse by nearby Highlight categories, and a new Gowalla 3 version for Android is also planned for later this month, Gowalla CEO Josh Williams said in an email.
Despite these improvements, however, the location-based service still has its work cut out for it. Rival Foursquare announced last month that it grew by 3,400 percent last year and hit 6 million users. By comparison, Williams said Gowalla is likely to hit 1 million users this month. Of course, these kinds of services aren’t always just about overall downloads and sign-ups. It’s also about building long-term engagement and making sure a service holds steady appeal and usefulness for users.
That’s the bet Gowalla is apparently making with its incremental improvements are important to keep users interested. In December, the service also enabled Gowalla users to follow friends on Facebook and Foursquare. Will all of this be enough? For now, maybe. But the location space is evolving quickly with deals, coupons and recommendations, and Gowalla will have to work hard to stay in the game.
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