There was a whole lot of checking-in going on at SXSW. Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, take your pick. I never got into any of these apps before, but definitely saw some value when at an event like SXSW.
However, I don’t think any of them have a chance to become the dominant player here; Facebook is going to take it all. That’s because Facebook already has 400 million users, and one of the best iPhone apps out there.
Flash back 4 years ago when Google released Google Chat. As a long time ICQ and AIM user, I resisted. Why should I have to change the chat client I use? But GChat quickly gained in popularity, mostly because of its integration in GMail. Every GMail user was instantly on chat, with a friends list already created. Today, some of my old, geeky friends are still on AIM, but most of my “normal” friends are on Google Chat.
In a similar fashion, Facebook is going to release a location based check in system and overnight put Foursquare and Gowalla down. They will instantly have a larger network, a network full of “normal” people. Location based social networking, more than anything else, benefits greatly by having more users on it.
Mayorships and other viral tricks might help you gain traction in the short term, but ultimately I’m going to use the system with the largest network and best tools.
Appendix A: Google Buzz was released last month and I *don’t* think it will have the same acceptance as Google Chat did. Facebook is already a dominant player in this space, online chat had no dominant player.
Appendix B: One issue with *all* of these systems is the privacy concern. At this point, I assume everything on my Facebook profile is 100% public. Who can see what? I have no clue. Friend groups? No thanks. Location based social networking might have slow uptake because people don’t want all that information to be public.