Last Thursday, I left on a trip to Disney World. At some point while I was over Georgia, Gowalla released version 4.0 of their app. I was excited to download it and give it a try when I checked in at Disney World, especially since Disney is one of the launch partners and has a ton of custom stamps for their different rides and attractions.
What I found was an app that tried to do something new and interesting, but completely missed the mark. Gowalla’s new “stories” aren’t stories at all. They’re small parts of stories. My “story” at Space Mountain, you see, isn’t a story in itself; it’s one tiny part of the much larger story of my trip to Disney World.
That’s the story I want to share with my friends and family. I want them to see all the places I went within Disney World. All the rides I rode. All the pictures I took. All the comments and stories to be told about the crazy things my kids said and did. That’sÂ the story.Â Everything else is just a checkin.
The “stories” you tell with Gowalla 4.0 have no context in the bigger picture. There should be a way to add not only comments and photos, but a way to add placesÂ to make the entire story more relevant and understandable to someone who’s viewing it.
For someone like me without a lot of friends using the app, the new stories in their current incarnation are of little use. The idea is to share your stories with your friends and let them comment, add photos, etc, but if you don’t have Gowalla friends involved in a story, it gets pretty lonely pretty quickly. Without the gaming elements and virtual items, there’s little to keep solo users like myself interested in the app.
Gowalla’s new guides are nice (at least on the mobile platform), but they seem to be little more than a list of popular places in the area until you dig a little further. There’s no indication in the guide itself of why you should be interested in a place other than the number of “loves” it’s received. That information is hidden until you dig in to the spot itself and see the highlights that have been left there. At the very least, the guide needs some indication of what kinds of highlights have been left at a location before you click through.
Guides on the website leave a lot to be desired. Visiting the Magic Kingdom guide, for example, shows what’s happening at 15 different places. Only eight of them are actually in the Magic Kingdom, though; the others are spread around the Walt Disney World property.
I’m giving Gowalla a pass (for now) on the bugginess of the app and trust that they’ll work out the kinks over the next few weeks. Foursquare users will want to know, though, that they’ve said fixing the broken foursquare connection is one of their top priorities (that’s if you can find the foursquare connection in the first place; it took me six days to realize you had to comment on a story to send it to foursquare).
Overall, I’m disappointed in the new updates to Gowalla. It doesn’t feel like they’ve really added anything new to the location space, they’ve just rearranged the deck chairs, so to speak. The “stories” are little more than checkins as far as I’m concerned and the guides are nice, but have a long way to go to become really useful.
What do you think of the new Gowalla? A their “stories” stories or just glorified checkins?