So, you’ve read at length, here at least, that Facebook isn’t exactly a big deal-maker. And without a doubt, the social media giant went and made an acquisition just as soon as my electrons were dry. Facebook has snapped up location-sharing company Gowalla (a Foursquare competitor). There aren’t many details out yet, including price.
Nonetheless, this is interesting news, especially given that Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg just touted the performance of the company’s check-in service at IGNITION last week. This comes after Facebook decided to kill its own Foursquare competitor, Facebook Places. Since then, it has baked check-ins into status updates.
Gowalla wasn’t able to last as a competitor to Foursquare, according to ZDNet, and is now positioning itself as a travel guide.
This is an interesting turn for Facebook. One acquisition doesn’t make a trend, but it shows that Facebook is (a) still interested in location/check-in and (b) realizes it can’t compete as effectively in this area with products developed in-house. I’m not sure that Facebook is considering a broader acquisition strategy – I suspect we’ll have to see how Gowalla is integrated before gauging whether Facebook will commit to this new direction.
Additionally, this is the sort of bold move Facebook needs to make over the next few months. With an IPO around the corner, it needs to show that it can grow by acquisition, commit to an aggressive new product pipeline (and deliver on it) and identify new revenue streams. It doesn’t seem likely that Gowalla will contribute to the third of these strategic needs (at least right away), but it’s a step in the right direction. If Facebook can monetize it – even better.