Gowalla's rocky couple of years ended with a talent acquisition by Facebook of the former location-sharing app. Left in the dust were developers using the Gowalla API, including Ben Dodson and his field notes app for Gowalla. Dodson's latest creation is a Gowalla-inspired app that focuses just on the gaming elements rather than check-ins. And because Dodson remembers struggling with Gowalla's early API, the WallaBee API is available from the start. In fact, before the start.
Here's how WallaBee describes itself:
WallaBee is the ultimate collectibles game for your iPhone. The aim of the game is to complete sets by collecting items in a variety of ways. Each item and set is uniquely numbered so you'll need to be quick if you want to beat your friends to the lowest numbers!
Like Gowalla, the main experience of WallaBee is an iPhone app. Users open the app to discover nearby items. The app is not yet released, but will be this month. In the meantime, Dodson has pre-launched the WallaBee developer community to show what's possible with the platform. Unlike Gowalla's shaky attempts to expose its API (which Dodson chronicled in his gooodbye to Gowalla), WallaBee aims to make any important functionality within the app available via API. That includes artwork for the items at any resolution: 20 to 512 pixels square.
"Fundamentally, I built the API because I'm a developer and I get frustrated when great apps launch (especially 'platform' apps such as Path) without an API," Dodson said in an email. "A lot of companies seem afraid to let go of their data but we believe that data portability is the secret to a lot of successful apps over the years (Twitter being the obvious example)."
The belief in its API is at the core of WallaBee's approach. In addition to providing the functionality of the app via the API, the company also provides a real-time element. Developers can subscribe to receive pings when there's activity with an item, place or user. "We believe that giving this unprecedented access to data at the same time as launching the app will make us an attractive option for developers," Dodson said. "If you build something on top of our API, we will shout about it from the hills."
WallaBee's beginnings were in 2009 when Dodson built a Gowalla item tracker, Gowalla Tools. It was later renamed Wallabee (Dodson points out the lower-case "b") and grew to be a suite of 13 tools, including a data-thrifty travel edition for roaming overseas.
With WallaBee, Dodson and his two co-founders are building their own platform. And it's likely the one Dodson wishes existed from the start with Gowalla: full-featured and developer-friendly.