The South by Southwest festival — SXSW as it’s better known — has been a thing for four decades, starting in the 1980s.
Music, film and interactive components have been the driving themes behind SXSW. That last one in particular, combined with the flocks of influential attendees, has led to SXSW gaining a reputation for being ground zero for many emerging technologies that soon hit the mainstream.
In recent years, the tech-embracing crowds at SXSW have proved to be the perfect match for the increasingly popular social media market, with Twitter (TWTR), FourSquare and perhaps the ultimate in taking in and sharing spectacle with others — Google (GOOG) Glass — hitting the big time in public.
But at SXSW 2014, no new social media breakout or tech superstar is making waves.
Sure, people are making the most of the current crop of hot social media apps and technology to take in the conference, share the news of new bands and hot movies and talk shop. Facebook’s (FB) Instagram is packed with artistically filtered photos, Google announced a developer API for Google Glass, and wearers of this VR technology — and their behavioral missteps — were the subject of a SXSW panel on “Glassholes.”
Despite the fact that tech startups have flocked to SXSW to demonstrate, pitch and otherwise make their case for being the next big thing, there has been a distinct lack of a must-have, must-use technology.
Contrast this with previous years. Way back in 1994, CD-ROMs were front and center at SXSW, helping to usher in an era of multimedia content on computers. More recently, Twitter, struggling to gain traction after a tepid launch, leveraged SXSW 2007 and the fact that so many of its early adopters were going to be at the conference to become an undisputed social media breakout.
In fact, SXSW 2007 was so big for TWTR — and the company was so invisible to the masses in the months prior — that many people incorrectly assumed SXSW was Twitter’s debut. It wasn’t, but the conference, tweets and headlines were definitely Twitter’s coming out party and launchpad to primetime.
And Twitter isn’t the only social media breakout from SXSW.