In March 2010, two location-based checkin services launched at SXSW2010 with only a handful of alpha users and a relatively level playing field. Their features , many of their screens looked alike were fairly simliar too. Not more than four months later – Foursquare quintupled Gowalla in terms of active users. What led to this upheaval? When both companies publicly launched in Austin, they both supplemented their user base with over two-thirds (66 & 80%) of their initial signups occurring over the course of the 5-day festival. The feature comparison were chillingly identical. Thus, they were hatched out of the same incubation egg – through SWSX, their initial users were of the same demographic.
Here’s probably where the Business Development team (and larger early rounds of funding to pay them) likely played a factor. These resources were vital to sell the product as each application kept adding venues, promoting giveaways, generated the competition to check-ins, the. Tellingly, as each platform grew, 1-in-4 Foursquare users checked in once and never again, compared to Gowalla’s 1-in-3 ratio. This, coupled with the daily growth in added venues, gave something for early adopters to hang their hat on and drive them back to participate past the first test.
A year later – one is done
Cut to four months later, as of July 2010, Foursquare claimed 1.9 Million users, with Gowalla stagnating at only 340,000. Oddly, Gowally featured a better integration with Twitter and Facebook than Foursquare to help publicize updates to checkins. When trying to understand what makes or break a social networking application – it is difficult to know whether it was branding and positioning or more of a concrete reasoning such as features or function of the app itself.