Location-based social networks was one of my social media predictions for 2010 and is now proving to be this year's next shiny thing. We are only into February, and we are already seeing Gowalla going toe to toe with Foursquare and encouraging API Developers to develop applications that will build onto their platform.
By now, it's apparent that Foursquare is the king of the check-in game and is building loyalty as a result. So much so, that they may have established the social networks next new metric: "Cost Per Check-in" - a business model that could rival Google Adsense's "Cost Per Click" measurement of the last decade.
In order for Gowalla to make similar strides, they have now opened up their API to the public, where third party developers are invited to start building cutting-edge apps on top of Gowalla's data, making their service a richer and more robust experience for their users.
Like Foursquare that already has a good number of APIs engaged, Gowalla with its new API release will allow its platform to expand at the hands of third-party developers versus being handled internally by their limited development team.
Differentiating themselves somewhat from Foursquare, Gowalla's suggested uses of their API includes building a sidebar to display Gowalla badges on users' blogs, an app to decide where you group might want to go for lunch, and a mini-game for conference attendees.
On January 28, Gowalla launched "Trips" and "Bookmarks" where users can describe and publish their trips in addition to bookmarking content they want to review at another time.
While those apps were designed by their in-house team, Gowalla is now encouraging third party developers to jump into the fray and help them design some additional fun stuff.The Gowalla API will take the creative potential to the next level, and according to their appeal on their Web site, they "are eager to see what this community creates next."
To get the ball rolling they have even come up with several very unique suggestions that might whett the appetite of the next team of developers. Here is a partial list of some of those ideas.
Gowalla API Ideas
So, the next few months should be interesting to see how many developers accept Gowalla's invitation and how these new APIs will distinguish Gowalla yet still from Foursquare. What would be very exciting but perhaps too early in the game is to see one of these location-based social networks initiate their own "developers conference" a la Chirp with Twitter or f8 with Facebook. I think the first LBS to take that path will be the one that will scale exponentially over the others.
Interestingly enough, I am approached by location-based social networks daily wanting me to write about their new start-ups, but so far none of these johnny-come-latelies have been able to show me that they have built a better mousetrap than Foursquare or Gowalla. If our readers know differently, please leave a comment and let me know what you are experiencing with others to distinguish them from the pack? Look forward to your feedback.