foursquare vs. Gowalla vs. brightkite: The Location Based Social Networking War

Ok, so for the last couple weeks I have been using three location-based social networking tools, trying to determine which I like best.  The contendors are foursqure, Gowalla, and brightkite.

First, let’s talk about the concept.  Using these tools you “check in” at locations you visit.  Seems like a neat way to see what your friends are doing and find interesting places to go and things to see.  Each of these tools will post to Facebook and Twitter so all of your followers on those services will see updates.  And each of these tools have great iPhone apps.  The problem is that they each of great features, and several shortcomings.  So, I’m having trouble picking one.


Foursqure is the most popular of the three.  I love the concept of becoming a Mayor of a location and collecting Badges.  But, it doesn’t give you an easy way to see on a page what your friends are doing, or who is currently near you.  Both of these seem obvious features that I just cannot find on their website.  Actually, on the home screen of the iPhone app you see where your friends currently are, but I cannot find it anywhere on the website.  However, the majority of my friends using one of these tools is using foursqure, so that is a plus for it.


Gowalla is the next most popular.  Unlike foursqure, on the Gowalla home page you can easily see what your friends are doing.  It also has the concept of Creators and Founders, which seems very similar to the Mayors on foursquare.  I love the large locaiton icons it uses and the stamps you earn and items you can drop.  Gowalla was really looking like it would come out in first place for me, but it does something strange with the Twitter posts.  When it posts to twitter it seems to insert a random “@” username in for the location name.  I can’t find on the locations where these twitter usernames are set.  Seems like a pretty major bug to me, so I don’t think this is going to be the one I end up using.


Brightkite is the least popular of the three, but surprisingly the most feature rich.  You can easily see people near you at any radius you select.  You can also easily see what your friends are doing.  It also gives you the ability to upload a picture when you checkin.  You can set it up to automatically push that picture to Flick or your Facebook photo album.  It doesn’t seem to have any concept like a Mayor or Founder.  But that’s not a huge deal.  Really, the biggest downside for me on brightkite is the fact that I only have a few friends on it, and almost all of them have switched exclusively to foursqure or Gowalla.

So, in my personal opinion, brightkite should win the war of the location based social networking tools.  Do I think it will?  Probably not.  Foursqure and Gowalla are currently much more popular.  But brightkite is the most feature rich and seems the most stable.  So, everyone out there who is looking at these tools, let’s all switch to brightkite and call this war over!

If you are using any of these three, add me as a friend.  Here are the links to my profiles: