Location-sharing service Gowalla is preparing to launch its long-awaited write API (our Gowalla API profile). The move could makes its platform as desirable as its main competitor, FourSquare. With it, comes the need to relinquish a bit of control of the user experience, something Gowalla has considered an important factor of its success.
Gowalla developer Adam Keys told the company's developer email list today that unlike previous promises a write-API was coming "next week," this time he means it. "The good news is that I think I've got the foundation in place," he wrote. "I'm hoping to write up the docs and get *something* out next week, even if it's not complete API access."
Users of Gowalla's beautiful iPhone app collect virtual items in the form of intricate pixel art. This experience has been important to Gowalla and may be the reason it's gained the reputation as the favorite of designer types. But developer-wise Gowalla lagged behind FourSquare, now the darling of marketers and brand managers. We list only one Gowalla mashup, despite the "ridiculous number of remarkable things" Gowalla founder Josh Williams said could come from a readable API.
FourSquare found a way to integrate its experience into the API. With FourSquare, users gain points and--if they've visited a place more than anyone else--can become mayor of a location. Kickball, a third-party iPhone app, uses the FourSquare API to augment the experience.
Business Week doesn't outright credit FourSquare's writable API, but it does claim the jumpstart gave FourSquare a lead. FourSquare launched its read/write API in November. In February Gowalla opened its readable API.
However, Gowalla likely had a private writable API not long afterwards, as single check-in service Check.in has always shared with Gowalla. The time between, one might guess, was spent perfecting a way to share the experience of the app via API. Gowalla couldn't give up the piece that has made it popular. Yet, every day it didn't find a way to distribute its experience FourSquare's lead grew larger.