Disney partners with Gowalla to bring location-based service to parks

Users of the location-based mobile app Gowalla will soon be able to “check in” to Space Mountain and other Disney attractions. Gowalla announced today that it had reached a deal with Disney to become the official location-based service for the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California. The deal could eventually help Gowalla breakout of the location-based pack.

There are several apps that are banking that “checking in” will be the next “friending” craze. Gowalla, Foursquare, and Scvngr all offer similar ways of registering locations via mobile phones and to keep track of the whereabouts of friends. Facebook too now  offers users the ability to announce their locations through its “Places” feature.

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Gowalla says that around 100 custom stamps are now available to people who visit certain locations within Disney parks with another 100 expected to ready by the end of the year.  Stamps (akin to Foursquare’s badges) serve as a virtual souvenirs indicating accomplishments or visits to certain places.

The deal is an opportunity for Gowalla to make up some ground on its competitor Foursquare. Gowalla reports it has around 500,000 users to Foursquare’s 4 million users.

The success of the project also will likely be seen as litmus test to determine if location-based services are ready to go mainstream. Currently, location-based participants are relatively small in number and largely confined to those under the age of 30.