With the location-based social networks starting to take off in usage, the next step for them is to try and become platforms. That way, they stand a better chance of continuing to remain as independent properties when the big boys like Facebook enter the location ring. Foursquare got an early start on this by releasing their API in November. And now Gowalla is about to do the same.
In a post on their blog, Gowalla’s Josh Williams notes that the first version of the API is “nearly complete” and that they will be making an announcement about it in the “very near future.” Leading up to that, the service is taking some steps to ensure that user privacy is maintained as third-party services start getting access to their data. To that end, Gowalla notes that if you choose to turn your Passport Privacy on, your check-ins will not register in the public feeds for places and not register in Gowalla’s Top 10 lists. This setting will still be set to off by default, Williams notes.
In noting that this setting is completely black and white (which is to say, on and off), Williams also notes that they’re working to make the privacy controls more granular so that users can pick certain things to share while holding back others. This is an increasingly important issue with these location networks, especially as they become platforms. It’s also likely the reason we have yet to see Facebook enter the location space in a meaningful way. Their privacy settings are already a headache and with location thrown into the mix (a feature that is still very new and thus scary to a lot of people) it’s only going to get worse for many users.
Services using Foursquare’s API are starting to pop up. It will be interesting to see how third-parties use Gowalla’s with its focus on virtual goods.