Facebook hires Gowalla team to build location offering
FACEBOOK has hired the founders of Gowalla, a location-sharing service, along with other staff.
The social network is understood to have struck a deal with the Texas-based location start-up.
Josh Williams, the founder and chief executive of Gowalla, said: “The ink on the deal is not dry, so our holding pattern is that we do not comment on rumours and speculation. I have another email penned that was ready to send you today, assuming you would get this news before the story was officially released.
“But now it is all over Twitter, so you have likely heard. A longer email will be sent soon.”
Gowalla, a mobile phone app, allows people to share the details of their location by checking-in to different venues. People can score points by checking-in multiple times to the same place and create a visual picture of their day using the service.
However, it launched in 2009 on the exact same day as rival service Foursquare, which has since enjoyed a greater amount of success and popularity.
Consequently Gowalla has relaunched and refocused the service several times in a bid to differentiate itself from its major rival. However, it has still not managed to gain the global usage that Foursquare has.
A Facebook spokesman said: "We're excited to confirm that Gowalla co-founders Josh Williams and Scott Raymond, along with other members of the Gowalla team, are moving to Facebook in January to join our design and engineering teams.
"In talking with the Gowalla team, we realized that we share many of the same goals: building great products that reach millions of people, making a big impact quickly, and creating new ways for people to connect and share what’s going on in their lives.
"While Facebook isn’t acquiring the Gowalla service or technology, we’re sure that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time.
Last year Facebook added a location tool allowing people to check-in to places with their friends, via the mobile app.
In January 2011, it launched ‘check-in Deals’ in the UK with some major partners, such as Starbucks - which allow Facebook users to get access to discounts and offers in shops or restaurants they ‘check into’. However, the scheme is still very US-centric and does not offer many local deals from non-chain shops.
Facebook’s location offering has evolved over the last 12 months, as people are still getting used to ‘checking-in’ to their destination. Earlier this year, the social network scrapped its Groupon-style daily ‘Deals’ service in the US after just four months.
The closure of the service, which had yet to launch outside of the US, did not affect check-in Deals.
The news came just days after Facebook scrapped Places – its separate mobile-only check-in feature on the site, instead opting to roll the location-sharing functionality directly into the status update bar.
Facebook has refused to share any statistics on how large the uptake of the check-in deals has been.
Separately Facebook has also announced that it is expanding its offices and opening up a large software engineering centre in New York in 2012. The announcement, made by the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, at a press conference attended by the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, comes ahead of an expected flotation by the company in the next few months. Last month Reid Hoffman, the creator of LinkedIn and Facebook investor, told The Telegraph that the social network will float next year.