What is this "Gowalla" thing? Is it a game? (Like geocaching or something?)
I see people posting this stuff on my Facebook from time to time.
Gowalla is sort of like a hybrid of social networking and geocaching. The basic jist is that when you go somewhere, you can check in to that location. Any of your friends using Gowalla will then get an update saying something like, "Jeni checked in at Bukowski's". (These updates can also be cross-posted to Twitter and Facebook, but that's optional. I generally don't do that to avoid spamming people...but occasionally post if I'm someplace cool.)
There are competitor apps that are similar: Foursquare and Brightkite. Yelp's app has also added a check-in feature recently. However, there are some differences between these four.Gowalla
, the best of the bunch in my opinion, offers "trips". You can mark up to 20 places as a "trip" and publish up to 5 of them to your friends. When you or your friends complete them, you earn a (virtual) pin. Summer's creating a trip for New England anime con locations. I have one for American League East baseball stadiums. Gowalla also has a couple dozen built-in trips, like Boston's Freedom Trail.
Gowalla also offers virtual items. These are picked up randomly (typically once every 10th to 20th check-in). You can try to collect them all. You can also leave an item at a place to become a "founder". (Only up to 10 or so founders though.) If someone has left an item somewhere, you can trade it with one in your pack to help collect them all. Some items have quite an interesting travel history as they have moved from place to place in various trades...ultimately ending up in someone's collection. Sometimes they do promotions with real companies in which you may win a real prize for finding a virtual item.
Pros: Trips, items, pretty and clean UI, sometimes items have prizes attached, easy to add a new venue
Cons: Fewer users than foursquare, real life prizes are few and far between, heavy on Austin tripsFoursquare
, the most popular of these apps, doesn't have trips or items, but offers "badges" you can earn for checking in at a certain number of a certain type of venue. If you check in at any venue more than someone else (and at least twice in the last 60 days), you become the "mayor" of the venue. Some venues offer special deals to mayors. (Many places in NYC, but few and far between outside NYC.)
Pros: Many users, mayors, deals with some venues
Cons: Crashes a lot, lots of downtime, lots of cheaters trying to become mayor, ugly UI, lots of trash/duplicate venues created by users, stealing Gowalla features, very NYC-centricBrightkite
has been around a long time, but has fewer users. Unlike Gowalla and Foursquare, it has no game aspect, no items, no mayors, nothing fun. It's bare-bones checking in and that's it. ...at least the last time I checked.
Pros: No game aspect if you're not into that, streetcorner check-ins welcome
Cons: Fewer users, no game aspect, ugliest UIYelp
seems to have added the check-ins to the app as an afterthought. They have all the venues already (thanks to the Yelp.com review web site), but the check-in part is dwarfed by the rest of their content. While there are lots of Yelp users, not many seem to bother checking in...perhaps because the process is somewhat convoluted.
Pros: The power of Yelp, not many duplicate/trash venues, mostly restaurants
Cons: Confusing UI, seems like an afterthought, fewer users, hard to add a new venue