As the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, or SXSWi, begins this Friday, March 12 in Austin, Texas, the spotlight is locked on a hot new trend in social media: geolocation. Sites Gowalla and Foursquare, both started less than two years ago, will be competing to be the geolocation social networking front runner by the end of SXSWi. Both sites allow users to ‘check in’ at locations that they visit and follow their friends movements around the globe. For example, attendees of the SXSWi festival can ‘check in’ on their preferred site as soon as they land in the Austin airport and can use their friends posts to develop an up-to-the-minute itinerary.
Gowalla and Foursquare seem to combine features of other popular social networking sites. Users can update their geolocation (similar to Facebook status updates), follow their friend’s updates (similar to Twitter feeds) and upload videos (YouTube) and photos (Picasa, Flickr) depicting their current location. Companies can utilize these sites to encourage business by offering users rewards for checking in at their sites and users benefit from each other by swapping information about new countries, cities and businesses. The sites are convenient for travelers because they’re available in mobile versions on iPhones, Blackberrys, smart phones and PDA’s.
Twitter was launched into the technology spotlight at SXSWi’s 2007 festival and has grown in leaps and bounds since. Their success at the festival has proved its importance in hooking SXSWi attendees, a prime audience of early technology adopters, to choose a favorite and run with it. The SXSWi front runner will generate quite a buzz that will grow its base of users dramatically. Read a full CNET News article on the competition here.
I’m excited for this new development in social networking, but a little weary as well. I’m not sure that I’m ready to divulge my location to thousands of users globally. I’m still waiting and watching the impact of these new sites before I take the plunge myself. Are you checking in on Gowalla or Foursquare? What are your thoughts?