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After days of speculation, Facebook has confirmed that it has hired Gowalla cofounders Josh Williams and Scott Raymond.

The pair, who founded the location based social networking site in Texas, will move to California to join Facebook’s design and engineering team in January along with other Gowalla employees.

Facebook said in a statement that it isn’t acquiring the Gowalla service or technology, but was sure that “that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time”.

The statement continued, “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.”

Williams also posted a blog saying Facebook initially approached his team a few weeks after F8 in September.

He said that Gowalla as a service will wind down at the end of January and user data would not be transferred to Facebook. Users will be able to export their passport data from Gowalla, as well as their photos.

The hiring of Gowalla’s team indicates that Facebook is going to revamp its location feature – it launched Facebook Places as a rival to foursquare, but it wasn’t a success and it was eventually merged into status updates.

Paul Smith, managing director of social technology company Techlightenment, said the move looks like a straight-forward talent hire that will allow Facebook to add a location feature to the new timeline.

"If you look at the new timeline feature it's all about telling a story and there's a strong narrative running through it. So a big part of that is location and the places you have been," he said.

Smith said that from an engineering perspective, Facebook has acquired a team who are familiar with using its platform and have experience turning location data into an attractive story that users will want to share.

As always with Facebook the specific motivations behind the move remain unclear, but it is safe to say that we will see modifications to its location service in the near future, if not a complete overhaul.

David Moth

Published 5 December, 2011 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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