Today Gowalla announced that it will remove two of its defining features, Items and Notes, in its next update. The check-in app is now receiving mixed reactions from its community about the feature-cutting.
Gowalla is a location-based social networking app that makes it easy to keep up with your friends, share your favorite places, and discover new hotspots. Similar to Foursquare, you can check in to a location using Gowalla to earn badges and rewards.
One example of a reward is an Item, or a virtual good. Items have been used as a promotional tool for the app’s partners, as well as another form of user interaction. Right now if you check in at a location you have the option to swap an item or leave one for someone else to discover. Gowalla explained that less than 50% of its active community actually uses this feature.
Metrics don’t lie, but some users say that tracking down the rare items was one of the things that set Gowalla apart from its competitors and made it special. The company’s CEO Josh Williams sent out a tweet promising one of his Twitter followers that “something even more special” is in the works.
The second feature scheduled for removal is called Notes. This feature allows you to leave a note for a specific friend at any location, and he or she will receive it the next time that person checks in there. Some used it to leave menu recommendations or other relevant tips about that location. While it’s certainly not as unique as the Items feature, it’s a helpful tool that competitors already utilize well. It’s fair to assume that for this reason Notes will return to Gowalla after it has been redesigned to align with the company’s vision.
Gowalla competitor Foursquare passed the 10 million user mark in June, and although Gowalla has integrated Foursquare into its system, we believe it has struggled to keep up with Foursquare’s big usage numbers. Over the next few weeks these features will be turned off and will be completely removed in the next app release. A few commenters on Gowalla’s blog post believe that removing these features makes Gowalla just another geolocation app, but hopefully the team has something else up its sleeve.