Nearly three years ago I sat on a beach at Lake Tahoe and watched as a large low-flying cloud hung above the lake, creating the backdrop for a beautiful weekend of solitude. As much as I enjoyed the time alone to clear my thoughts, I was overwhelmed with the desire to share this experience with someone. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a pic. Then I texted it to my dad. It was an oddly modern form of postcard. A way to briefly say “I wish you were here.”
The dream for Gowalla was born that moment.
Five months later our small team launched Gowalla with a vision to make sharing and discovering the world’s most-loved places a delight for you and your friends.
We’ve learned a lot in the last few years. Almost two million of you have joined us for this journey. You’ve visited almost every place of note in the world with Gowalla. You’ve photographed it, highlighted it and shared it, many of you checking in with reckless abandon.
You’ve given us new eyes to see the world around us through, and today we want to share what we’ve seen with you. And if all goes to plan, we’re going to share it with millions more as well.
Today, with an uncompromising vision to inspire the world to explore, we’re launching the next chapter for Gowalla — complete with new apps for iPhone and Android, along with an entirely reimagined experience on the web.
The cornerstone for this update is Gowalla’s new Social Guides. We’ve taken the best of what’s local, the places your friends love, and the recommendations from experts, rolled them all up, and have created the foundation for a collection of Social Guides to cities, parks and regions around the world — ready and at your fingertips with Gowalla.
We’re launching these new Guides in 60 cities today, featuring photos, highlights and experiences from your friends, locals and experts. Additionally, we’re thrilled to have joined forces with some of our favorite folks like Disney, National Geographic, the Austin American-Statesman (Texas, repruhsent!) and several others to launch over 20 additional guides to places like Walt Disney World® Resorts and a handful of the most lovely National Parks in the U.S.A.
The best part about all of this is that there is much more to come, and we need your help. 60 cities are a fine start, but we plan to crack 100 in short order with hundreds more to follow after that.
If your favorite cities aren’t in our launch collection, you can help us by creating highlights and lists for the places you love. Oh, and we’ve even given you a fancy new “Love” button than makes it easy to share the places you love most. Of course, we could have made this a “Like” button, but we’re a passionate folk. We don’t just want to know about places you like, we want to know about the places you *love*.
Your photos, highlights, lists and loves not only make our current Social Guides even better (we’re continuously updating and improving them with the help of our community), they also help us figure out where we should launch new Social Guides next.
We’re building a social atlas for the world. And we need your help to do it.
This is a big step forward for me and my team at Gowalla. We couldn’t be more excited. Once you dive in you’ll notice other changes, both big and small. For one, we’ve made it easier to discover and share Lists (we used to call these Trips, but since you were doing all sorts of crazy things with them, we broadened the name a bit to fit). Same goes for Highlights: they’re much easier to add and find now.
We’ve broadened our concept of “checking in” as well. We call them stories now. It’s easy to add friends to a story so you can add photos and comments together as a single experience. Eventually we’ll even bubble up the best stories within our guides, so you can relive all that was great about that film festival you’re going to (Fantastic Fest anyone?).
We’ve also made some subtle but welcome changes to our friendship model — opting to evolve it into a “follow” model, not unlike what many of you have used on other services like Twitter (oh hai, Facebook, and now you too). It’s now easy for me to keep up with the recommendations of that food blogger I admire without the awkwardness of us being “friends.” Of course, if we are friends and he follows me in return, then a few other features open up — for instance, adding each other to stories. And like before, you can take advantage of our Private account setting if you only wish to share your experiences with close friends and family.
For those curious, existing Gowalla 3 clients will continue to work, though as always we’re grateful for your patience as we roll over to our new platform. There are likely to be some bugs and bumps over the next couple weeks.
Today marks a dramatic leap forward not only Gowalla, but for location-based and mobile services in general. We’re excited to have you go with us.
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