Southby! It’s that time of the year again, when gobsmacking masses of techies converge in the Texas capital for five days of drinking, trend-chasing, drinking, drinking, socializing, scavenging free barbeque, drinking, standing in lines, sporting the occasional pushup, and chasing the next big thing. Also, drinking.
The widely buzzed-about (or over-hyped, depending on your perspective) festival famously serves as a launchpad for emerging technology trends. The atmosphere offers a palpable taste of the zeitgeist — live at the time of this writing, at the Samsung Blogger Lounge, panelists dive into a live YouTube show, What’s Trending.
SX revolutionized the sharing economy when then-ramen-unprofitable AirBNB revolutionized short-term home sharing. It shifted social media when Twitter blew up, most famously with Scott Beale’s impromptu AltaVista party. It helped launch the musical career of impossible-to-spell-his-name-without-Googling-it Macaulay Culkin’s Pizza Band. And this year includes, among other highlights — not to be confused with Highlight — real-life Mario Kart racing.
Often referred to as “spring break for nerds,” attendees oft scour for the same thing as people at every other spring break: sex. And this year, in particular, there’s an app for that. Many apps. On the top of everyone’s mind is Tinder, whose popularity seems impossible to quell. Then there’s the gay ol’ standby Grindr, whose Saturday night party promises to be… interesting.
Then there’s social dating app Down, rebranded from the infamous Bang With Friends. Offering double-opt-in matchmaking with a twist, users swipe “down” on a person’s face if they want to “get down,” or swipe up if they covet a date. Finally, a solution to humanity’s greatest challenge: separating those who want to date from those who want to fuck. (Venture capital at work!)
Since everyone is getting tired of Facebook’s insistence on real names, anonymity is enjoying a moment in the sun. Most popular, of course, is Secret, among a slew of emerging apps offering freedom from the glaring eye of everyone you know in real life. From another angle, internet privacy matters more than ever, with anonymous web-surfing trending along with the launch of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.
Something you’d expect to see a lot of is Google Glass — but tellingly, there’s a lot more Regular Glass (it’s still a nerd conference, after all), not to mention sunglasses. Free shades dance about ubiquitously, elevated to the status of semi-official schwag. (Sidenote: bright neon frames are in, slatted Wayfarers and their assorted knock-offs are out.) When I met someone yesterday wearing Google Glasses, my first question was, “are you recording this?” and he replied, exasperatedly, “why does everyone keep asking me that?”
Bonus trend: “gif” is now definitely pronounced “jif.”