Gowalla co-founder Josh Williams will leave Facebook, a year and a half after Gowalla was acquired by the social network. In a reportedly unrelated exit, Instagram designer Tim Van Damme will also leave Facebook. Van Damme was also a former Gowalla employee, but he joined Instagram before it was acquired by Facebook.
While the Gowalla product was shut down, Williams went on to build the Facebook Nearby feature, which hasn’t seen much love since it launched in December 2012. The Nearby feature was touted as a major Yelp and Foursquare competitor, but it has been languishing in the mobile sidebar without much improvement; while other, smaller features, like ‘Poke’ got their own standalone app, Nearby hasn’t even earned a more prominent place on the main mobile app.
Williams was most recently a product manager for Pages, Location, and Events; he will stay in San Francisco and work on a new company, although he’s not divulging any further details. No word yet on Van Damme’s reason for leaving or his next plans.
Williams penned a great Medium post, “Play By Your Own Rules” in February about his path with Gowalla, and battling for ground in the space with Foursquare and Burbn (which pivoted to become Instagram). He closed the piece urging others to blaze their own trails:
“Today I’m at Facebook. It’s a special time to be at the company right now. We’re able to build unique products that few others can dream of. But those same challenges still present themselves: How do we choose our own path? Build to our own strengths? Avoid the gravity holes?
These are the questions I chew on every morning.”
Now, Williams and Van Damme have left the social network and set off on their own, separate paths. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next.