SXSW is so close I can almost taste it. I won't be on the ground in Austin but I'll definitely be keeping up to date on what's happening in the world of location based apps. I seem to have become the resident geek for all things location around the BFG Content Department. I've even been accused of being a SCVNGR fanboy, a notion which I fully reject.
Some news & rumors have sprung up in the last few days so this blog post will set the stage for what is sure to be an exciting SXSW week.
Ahead of the official start of SXSW, last years darling, Foursquare has launched version 3.0 of their app for Android & iPhone users. You can read the full specs over at Mashable while I highlight my favorites here.
They have added a new tab, Explore, to the application. The goal of it is to tell you what's near you, and what's popular among you or your friends. In theory this should help you explore your surrounding in a new way, at least that's the hope of Foursquare's founders. You can narrow by category (food, coffee, nightlife, shops, A&E) or run a search if you are looking for something more specific. I see this as becoming more of a home base for the app and a welcome change.
Next up, they have made changes that should make things easier for merchants using the service to offer rewards. With this comes the ability for any user to check out all rewards nearby. Another great usability change for the average user.
Last up it seems like they are finally working on the game layer of the application. The idea of the world as a game is something that they really set out to do in the first place, it has just gotten lost in their massive growth. Evidence of this in the wild; you'll now get bonus points for checking into a location if you are friends with the Mayor (thanks Amy for letting me steal this snap!):
There seems to be buzz that Gowalla is going to announce something that has to do with their rewards system soon. SXSW seems like the logical place to make this happen. I'll be interested to see how they handle rewards as I think it is a change that they need to make in order to survive in the ever evolving market segment. The idea that they may tap into something along the lines of Groupon or Living Social is interesting. I'd like to see bigger rewards offered on a tiered basis depending on the amount of people who check into a location.
They have a press conference scheduled for tomorrow so I'll definitely be watching out for their big news. I'm not exactly sure what to expect but I'd love for them to finally introduce a BlackBerry app. I also fantasize about augmented reality being incorporated into the app but I'm not sure if it makes sense to launch something like that now. The rumor mill also seems to be swirling that they will announce some sort of group rewards functionality. Perhaps a partnership with Groupon? We'll have to wait & see.
Obviously, a highlight for SCVNGR at SXSW will be the keynote on Saturday given by founder, Seth Priebatsch. As an alleged fanboy early adopter I can't wait to hear from him.
I haven't read much about activities for StickyBits or GoldRun at SXSW but I'm hoping that there will be something. If there are, I may not have it live from Austin, but I'll be sure to include an announcement recap here!