It appears that Google will soon allow people using the Google+ social network mobile app to check in to Google Places (the business pages on Google Maps) for special deals called Offers. This new feature would be similar to those already offered by Foursquare and Facebook.
Checking in to businesses for special deals is still a niche proposition, but check-ins can provide businesses and brands with a great deal of exposure because the check-ins are broadcasted to the friends of the individuals who do them. That makes the prospect of offering small discounts or bonuses in return a no-brainer.
Blogger Mike Blumenthal discovered a reference to the new check-ins deals while reading the help documentation for Google Places, but the feature is not yet live for businesses to use. The documentation didn’t name a release date, but it’s probably not far away. It’s no surprise that Google plans to add this feature; it’s a logical next step after the addition of Google+ business brand pages.
However, the market for location-based social features is small enough that there might not be room for another big competitor. Gowalla — one of the frontrunners in the space — will shut down in January as its employees go on to work at Facebook, and the gap between the top two services (Foursquare and Facebook Places) and the rest of the space is large.