Gowalla has partnered with Disney to let users of the geolocation service use their smartphones to "check in" to Disney theme parks and take custom-designed guided tours.
Gowalla is one of several popular location-based services that permits people to use their smartphones to broadcast where they are to friends and strangers, as well as earn coupons and special deals from businesses for doing so. The Disney deal creates a custom service designed specially for Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Financial details were not disclosed.
Gowalla, which competes with the larger Foursquare, tries to set itself apart by letting users share trips, photos and recommendations on places with friends. The Disney partnership features more than a hundred Disney attractions to visit, challenges to earn awards and insider trips, including some created especially for the holiday season.
In visiting the parks using Gowalla, people get 100 virtual passport stamps and pins, which are the digital equivalent of the real-life pins people acquire when visiting the parks. The pins are popular among Disney fans, who buy, collect and trade the tokens.
Location-based services such as Gowalla and Foursquare are relatively new. The idea of building a social network around a person's location got a big boost in August, when the world's largest social network, Facebook, gave users the option of broadcasting their location in real-time using an Apple iPhone or Web page accessed through a mobile browser that supports HTML5 and geolocation. The service is available only in the U.S., but Facebook, which has 500 million users worldwide, plans to make it more widely available.
Nevertheless, location-based services are a ways from catching on with mainstream Internet users. Only 4% of online adults have ever used such service, and only 1% of Internet users are utilizing the services on any given day, according to a study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life project.