SXSWi: Let the geolocation games begin

Posted: March 10, 2010 in Advertising & Marketing, Mobile, Social Media & Networking, Technology

“We’re going to be giving away, literally, hundreds of tacos,” Josh Williams, founder of mobile networking start-up Gowalla, said to CNET in an interview last week about his company’s plans for the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi), which runs March 12-16 in Austin, Texas.

“We’re bringing, like, playground-style balls and chalk,” said Dennis Crowley, the co-founder of Gowalla rival Foursquare. “You’ll be able to win prizes at ad-hoc foursquare games that you see around the convention center.”

Eighteen months ago, neither Gowalla nor Foursquare existed. But their similar “geolocation” mobile apps, which let users “check in” from their smartphones, share their location with their friends, and compete to earn virtual goods (in Gowalla) and “badges” (in Foursquare), are two of the hottest start-ups in the tech world. They’re in aggressive competition to be SXSWi’s big standout, making the digital-culture bonanza’s Texas-sized showmanship even bigger than usual.

The history of technology is riddled with fierce rivalries, and while Foursquare vs. Gowalla is hardly Edison vs. Tesla, it’s quite significant to those who see location awareness as the key to the next big developments in social-networking, advertising, and marketing. Plus, after SXSWi 2007, when Twitter made its explosive leap out of the gates, the tech world has turned to SXSWi as the premiere event for discovering the next big thing, a gathering of the earliest of early adopters that can serve as the ultimate Petri dish for new social-media tools. (see the rest of the story)

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