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Gowalla Battles Foursquare, Long Tail of Tacos in Austin

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Photo from Dennis Crowley.

The same nerdy set that dines at the Google cafeteria and takes their bulky digital SLR out after being served at Spork have been in Austin the last few days for South by Southwest Interactive (in case you were wondering why it's been so easy to get a reservation and a parking space).

But what does this mean to the Bay Area's foodie economy, besides the horde returning with a yen for smoked brisket and breakfast tacos? Well, it could decide who's trying to extort promote small businesses online next, and showcases new advances in making you feel guilty for enjoying a taco.

After Twitter took off a few years among the geeks at SXSW, and later became a bit of a phenomenon, the event has been closely watched to see what the next big thing the kids are going to be into is on the horizon. The tech press have been all over location-aware mobile applications like Gowalla and Foursquare.

Seems to be a draw, with GPS-enabled Gowalla getting more awards but Foursquare getting more traffic, if by a slim margin. Of course, Google looms in the background with Google Local, Maps, Buzz, Latitude and boatloads of cash, and surely Yelp will develop some me-too functionality. Funny story: Google bought Foursquare (and Twitter) precursor Dodgeball, which it then essentially abandoned, and now is playing catch-up with Foursquare, founded by Dodgeball creator Dennis Crowley (above, center) and built on top of a bunch of the code that Google bought.

Also in Austin, where a bunch of people flew in from around the country for a week to rent cars, drink booze and eat beef, apparently sustainability was all the rage. In a presentation on the topic of sustainable systems, business operations consultant Valerie Casey shouted out the research and map on taco ingredient sourcing done by URBANlab at the California College of the Arts during a discussion, so unless you want to be dropped on Gowalla and Foursquare by your newly "aware" friends, might want to hold off on checking in at the El Tonayense truck for a while.

Gowalla Tops Foursquare at SXSW Web Awards [Wired]
Foursquare And Gowalla In A Dead Heat In The Location War [TechCrunch]
The Taco Problem: Local Goods With Global Implications [Webnewser]

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