Now that Facebook has entered the space, Google appears to be ready to take it more seriously, and Foursquare is gaining some real traction, the other players in the location field need to start defining their roles. Of the other players, Gowalla has been doing some interesting stuff around check-in aggregation. But their more interesting play may be around travel. And a small change today points to that.
As you can see on place pages for various airports, Gowalla has begun connecting your travels from destination to destination. So if you check it at SFO then five hours later check in at JFK, they know that you were on a cross-country flight and create a new graphic to showcase that, complete with your miles traveled. Below that they tell your friends about your journey. And they’re even able to see if you had a layover at another airport.
Is it a small feature? Of course. But again, it does point to some of the interesting things Gowalla could do with location in the travel space. Other recent features they’ve launched, such as Highlights, also showcase this. With Highlights, you can make a list of your favorite things a city. This is based around pre-set topics, so there’s a best place for “People Watching” and a best “Watering Hole”, for example. But you can only have one set place for each topic, and so obviously, the emphasis here is to name things in your home city. But imagine if they turned this on for vacations, so you could leave recommendations to your friends?
They’re sort of doing this with the ability to leave notes at venues around the world, which entices your friends to go visit and check-in there so they can unlock the message.
Another small addition to the Gowalla website is that they now show you a map connecting your most recent check-ins. Again, this could be interesting from a travel perspective. Imagine being able to give someone a link visually showcasing where you when on a recent trip.
Some of these concepts are things that startups like TripTrace and others are working on as well. But Gowalla has the benefit of being a pretty widely used (and very solid) mobile application already. In other words, they already have the great tool to populate this data. Now it’s just a question of what they’ll do with it.