Facebook picks up team behind location-sharing service Gowalla

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The team behind Gowalla is going to Facebook.

That’s the upshot of a blog post from one of the company’s founders, Josh Williams.

Like the more-popular Foursquare, Gowalla is a mobile application that lets people share where they are and what they are doing with friends by “checking in.”

Facebook confirmed that it’s hiring Gowalla co-founders Williams and Scott Raymond, along with “several other members” of the Gowalla team. They’ll move to Facebook in January, joining its engineering and design teams. Facebook did not identify which product or products the Gowalla group would work on.


The move gives Facebook an injection of top engineers as it competes for talent with other tech giants such as Google and Apple and startups such as Square. Facebook said last week it was opening an engineering office in New York to attract engineers. And Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook plans to hire thousands of employees in the next year.

Williams said the talks with Facebook began after the F8 conference in September. For those keeping track, that was one year after Foursquare decided not to sell out to Facebook, opting instead to stay independent -- and pursue a truckload of cash from venture capitalists.

A CNN report Friday prompted a weekend of fevered speculation over whether Facebook was buying Gowalla.

But in moving to Palo Alto from Austin, Texas, the Gowalla team won’t be packing up the Gowalla service or its technology. Instead, the service will be wound down early next year, Williams said in his post.

“We’re sure that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time,” a Facebook spokesman said in an e-mailed statement.

Gowalla was one of the pioneers in the location-based sharing space. Both Gowalla and Foursquare launched in the same week of 2009. Kara Swisher dubbed the company “Not Foursquare.” As she rightly points out, the company had changed tactics several times and was for sale for some time.

Clearly it’s not the way Williams and his team had hoped things would turn out. But working for Facebook, which is on the verge of a $100-billion initial public offering, is surely a nice consolation prize.


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-- Jessica Guynn