Over the past few days I’ve watched this meme about the so-called “geowars” ahead of SXSW gather steam, both in the blogosphere and on Twitter. And it’s giving me a headache. For some odd reason, people believe that SXSW is going to be a full-blown coming-out party for location-based services that will launch at least one of them into the stratosphere.
Ever since Twitter made such a big splash in Austin a few years ago, many startups have come to believe that if they can do the same, they will subsequently become an overnight success — a foolish assumption. It took a lot longer than that for Twitter to go from an early-stage curiosity to a mainstream phenomenon.
Even last year’s debutante, Foursquare, took a whole year to sign up 500,000 users, including myself. Impressive, but not Facebook impressive! Its rival is Gowalla, a liberally funded startup that recently crossed the 100,000 subscriber mark (and released a much-improved and a fantastic upgrade). Others such as Pelago/Whrrl are literally spraying Austin to get the attention of SXSW visitors. Add to this dozens of unknown and/or little known services and you have the “geowars.”
My problem, of course, is not with the technology per se, but with its implementations. With the exception of Foursquare, most LBS startups have not found a way to even briefly engage me. Many of them are going to meet a fate no different that that of a moth flitting around a flame on a dark summer night. So in case you hadn’t noticed, I am a tad skeptical about this notion of geowars.
From GigaOM Pro: Location: The Epicenter of Mobile Innovation in 2010.