Facebook is going to dominate the location based “checkin” game

There was a whole lot of checking-in going on at SXSW. Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, take your pick. I never got into any of these apps before, but definitely saw some value when at an event like SXSW.

However, I don’t think any of them have a chance to become the dominant player here; Facebook is going to take it all. That’s because Facebook already has 400 million users, and one of the best iPhone apps out there.

Flash back 4 years ago when Google released Google Chat. As a long time ICQ and AIM user, I resisted. Why should I have to change the chat client I use? But GChat quickly gained in popularity, mostly because of its integration in GMail. Every GMail user was instantly on chat, with a friends list already created. Today, some of my old, geeky friends are still on AIM, but most of my “normal” friends are on Google Chat.

In a similar fashion, Facebook is going to release a location based check in system and overnight put Foursquare and Gowalla down. They will instantly have a larger network, a network full of “normal” people. Location based social networking, more than anything else, benefits greatly by having more users on it.

Mayorships and other viral tricks might help you gain traction in the short term, but ultimately I’m going to use the system with the largest network and best tools.

Appendix A: Google Buzz was released last month and I *don’t* think it will have the same acceptance as Google Chat did. Facebook is already a dominant player in this space, online chat had no dominant player.

Appendix B: One issue with *all* of these systems is the privacy concern. At this point, I assume everything on my Facebook profile is 100% public. Who can see what? I have no clue. Friend groups? No thanks. Location based social networking might have slow uptake because people don’t want all that information to be public.


  1. I thought that title was meant to be sarcastic — an order of magnitude more friends chat with me over AIM than Google Chat. I guess it all depends on one’s contacts.

  2. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">The difference I see is between "tech" people, who I agree are on AIM. And non tech people, who all use GChat and have forced me to use it too.<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  3. Ah.With people I know who are on both, I always choose AIM because (at least with iChat) it doesn’t seem possible to drag binaries (images, sounds, etc) into gchats.

  4. I agree, Facebook’s integration into the social world is by far the largest. It’s new advanced privacy tweaks also make geo-social networking more feasible.

  5. Was just talking about this on the way home from sxsw yesterday. Gowalla did a great job of making a game out of the experience there, but the larger audience is Facebook’s to lose; no one is going to be able to drum up enough mainstream traction to compete, which begs the question: is building a social network nothing more than just donating free R&D to Facebook at this point? Should they really be able to own our relationships?

  6. True that!! I think they’re going to have it hands down! …..Salt Lick was good, wasn’t it!!? Yep, that’s right! Texas BBQ Rules. 🙂

  7. I have to disagree because it really depends on how it works. The great thing about foursquare and gowalla is the interface and the way things work. Facebook isn’t going to instantly win just because it is facebook.

  8. I agree, I like the idea of FourSquare, but "others" don’t seem to get it. What they do get is Facebook and if you add a new feature that’s easy to use pretty soon they’ll be doing it too!

  9. Great point, Sachin. There is a big opportunity for Facebook to come in and drink the Foursquare/Gowalla milkshake. However Foursquare/Gowalla could build Facebook applications to create a layer on top of the Facebook offering. This would still preserve a lot of the F/G value: gaming and localized advertising market.

  10. I think there’s something to be said for single-purpose (or close to it) web applications, even ones related to social networking. One of the things that’s kept me interested in foursquare is that I’m not presented with facebook’s chat, news feeds, and tons of information when I launch the app to "check in". I load facebook rarely, with a bit of a sense of dread these days.I’m not sure how long I’ll keep checking in on foursquare. I think I’m giving it some time to see if it really takes off and its usefulness or fun becomes more obvious to me.

  11. Have some of the same thoughts but get there down a different path. The new services are not getting to critical mass fast enough. Gmail pulled away techie users but many still hang out on AIM, Yahoo and, I hear, MSN. Not because they are better but because that is where they were to begin with and are still where they keep their mail. Also gmail is not nearly as universal as Facebook, which means 4square and Gowalla need to get some momentum fast or when the change comes it could be dramatic. I think there will still be room for multiple players but the winner of this race may get a very big prize at the end; they might finally crack the local advertising nut.

  12. .In the long run "the simplest" wins. Facebook becomes a basket of everything. If it integrates location based services neatly, they win. If that’s with bells and whistles, they loose. And in the longer run, the powerful wins = Facebook will win.

  13. "Mayorships and other viral tricks might help you gain traction in the short term, but ultimately I’m going to use the system with the largest network and best tools."Exactly.

  14. Intriguing viewpoint — I like the comparison to Google Chat. If Facebook can do location check-in in a way that is fun to use, then they’ve got it nailed. I’ve been using Flook for most of my check-ins lately, because it’s a funky blast. Let me ask you this: do you use Facebook chat more than Google chat?

  15. Sachin I would have to agree with you about Facebook but not about Google Chat. Facebook has the user base with over 400 million or so users at the moment so it’d be very easy for them to add another simple to use product and bang they own the market.But on the topic of Google Chat. I use and have been using Google Chat since I switched to Gmail around three or so years ago. But my friends list is under 10 people. This is mainly because most of my friends aren’t computer savvy IT guys like me. I’ve stopped using MSN, but before I did I had around 50 of so friends on it.So it’s just a matter of who the service is aimed at. Most people still have Hotmail accounts and still use MSN. The more tech savvy guys have switched to Gmail a long time ago. Facebook on the other hand doesn’t have that problem. They have users from both sides of the bell curve.In theory they should win.

  16. Facebook? Right. That’s all I need. For my boss, co-workers, girlfriend, friends from the class of ’82 & the irritating neighbor kid to know where I am and what I like doing. Facebook has its uses. But this is taking it too far.Facebook will never replaced foursquare for me, unless they come up with features that match and strict privacy controls. Given Facebook’s past, I’m sure they’ll think location should be available to all. Just like friend lists.Thanks but no thanks. I accidentally fell for the Google trap, and know just how tough it is getting out. I’m not going to willingly fall into a Facebook trap.

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