Growth opportunities continue, as lion's share of smartphone users have yet to adopt geo-social.
Foursquare now has 15 million users, tripling its base since this time last year. Half of the users reside in the U.S., while the other 50 percent are international.
The New York-based tech company revealed the stats to ClickZ News in a pair of emails today. Foursquare's new high-water mark underscores how the geo-social startup scene has moved forward even while enduring growing pains in 2011.
That said, all signs point to a thinning herd. Gowalla will go the way of Whrrl and shut down in January, as a result of Facebook's talent-based acquisition of the company announced today. The development suggests that Foursquare and Facebook Places are increasingly smartphone users' check-in services of choice. Going into 2012, what's particularly striking is that those brands - along with current geo-social survivors Loopt, Scvngr, and MyTown - appear to have excellent growth opportunities in the U.S.
Facebook claims to reach 350 million users globally, but doesn't break out installs of its mobile app, which prominently includes location-based check-ins. At the same time, Foursquare has roughly 7.5 million domestic users. Scvngr claims 2 million worldwide, Loopt has 5 million, and MyTown has 4.5 million. Soon-to-be-defunct Gowalla has garnered nearly 2 million worldwide users. Foursquare's smaller competitors haven't broken down their U.S. vs. international numbers.
These figures suggest that, not counting Facebook, up to 20 million known smartphone users in the U.S. have downloaded geo-social apps. Of course, there's going to be some overlap due to consumers downloading more than one app. So the number could be lower.
Whatever the case, the lion's share of smartphone users have yet to download Foursquare, Loopt, Scvngr, MyTown, Gowalla, etc. According to comScore data from October, there are 90 million smartphone users aged 13 or older in the U.S. Therefore as many as 78 percent of smartphone users are ripe for geo-social apps to claim.
Facebook changes the equation somewhat. The degree to which Facebook Places is used by smartphone users to check in to locations will negatively impact the opportunity for rival geo-social apps.
Whether or not Foursquare can continue to build scale and whether Loopt, Scvngr, and MyTown can gobble up enough adopters to survive will be among 2012's more intriguing storylines. If they don't convert more of the masses to a check-in mindset, they may go the way of Gowalla and Whrrl.
Facebook's Gowalla Purchase Is A Talent Grab
A few days after announcing it is hiring engineers for its New York office, Facebook has acquired more technical talent for its California headquarters by buying Gowalla. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Gowalla, which has been based in Austin, TX, will move most of its engineering staff to Palo Alto, CA, while some employees will remain nearby to work in Facebook's office in the Texas state capital.
Facebook PR sent out the following statement on Monday morning, "We're excited to confirm that Gowalla co-founders Josh Williams and Scott Raymond, along with other members of the Gowalla team, are moving to Facebook in January to join our design and engineering teams. In talking with the Gowalla team, we realized that we share many of the same goals: building great products that reach millions of people, making a big impact quickly, and creating new ways for people to connect and share what's going on in their lives."
Meanwhile, Gowalla's monetization efforts have seemed flailing for some time. One year ago, it launched an ill-fated local ads platform called Stamp Calendar. And in October, Gowalla said it was pivoting away from Foursquare's niche and focusing on becoming a travel-oriented app.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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