With more than 1 billion tweets a month and 100 million users, Twitter has, arguably, changed the way we communicate.
Celebrities announce break-ups on Twitter, the President of Venezuela tweets and censored protestors in Iran launched their opposition to the 2009 election on the social networking site. Created by a 10-person startup in San Francisco, its signature microblogging encourages users to be permanently connected and always current.
Twitter is free to everyone, so does it make money? Like Facebook (who failed in an attempt to buy Twitter back in 2008), Twitter’s risky business strategy has been to prioritize user expansion and product innovation over profit. But, in 2010, Twitter rolled out its plan to monetize its exponential growth by inserting sponsored tweets into the Twitter stream. Whether the aspiration is to transform everyday communication and affect the course of global history or to simply be the next gimmick, there are plenty of young startups looking to become as ubiquitous as Twitter. And some might just succeed. Here are a few to lwatch.
1. FoursquareLaunched in March 2009, this mobile application is battling it out with a few others to become the “geosocial networking” tool of choice.
Using your smartphone, you can broadcast your location to other users and earn real and virtual rewards whenever you “check in” someplace. You can also choose to update your friends on Twitter and Facebook with your whereabouts and pursue a game-like challenge to earn “badges” for your visits or become the “mayor” of a place that you frequent enough times.
Co-founded by the 33-year-old Dennis Crowly, the application has vast potential as both a market research and promotional tool and the concept is breeding imitation (although their programming interface is available for anyone to use). Crowly sold his first company, Dodgeball (a similar social/locator application), to Google in 2005 and Foursquare is rumored to be on Yahoo's acquirement radar.
Gowalla, a competitor to Foursquare, is another location-based social networking game created by Alamofire. It is also primarily a mobile Web application that enables users to check in at Spots (popular landmarks) in their area or take Trips (pub crawls, restaurant tours) and earn real-world rewards or virtual “items” as a bonus that can be swapped or dropped at Spots. And, like Foursquare, they offer an open source code public version of the Gowalla API to allow developers to build applications that use Gowalla data. This Texas-based company won the Mobile category in the 2010 South By Southwest Interactive competition.