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I’m Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Technology Report.
Tens of thousands of people travel to Austin, Texas each year to attend the South by Southwest festival. The festival is most famous for its music and film presentations. In recent years it has also become one of the biggest new media events of the year. Last year more than fourteen thousand people from fifty-four countries attended the event. It is the place to learn about promising new technologies.
Margie Newman describes the event as “a sea of Mac-toting, smartphone-obsessed, new media snobs on a mission to know what is next.” Ms. Newman is a public relations professional in Washington, D.C. She made her third trip to the South by Southwest festival this year. She said: “A lot of people call South by Southwest Interactive the geek spring break. And that’s pretty accurate.”
South by Southwest Interactive has seen the successful launch of several products. It helped push Twitter into mainstream popularity in two thousand seven. In two thousand nine, a company called Foursquare launched its mobile networking service at the festival. The service lets friends tell other friends where they are by “checking in” using a mobile application or a text message. Foursquare’s owners say they now have more than six and a half million users around the world.
Margie Newman says quick response codes were big news at this year’s festival. The codes turn URLs and text into barcode-like images that can be scanned using a mobile phone or a QR code reader. She said it looks like a scanning device used in supermarkets but it’s a square. She said people aren’t using QR codes for marketing just yet. But it was very popular at South by Southwest Interactive. Cloud computing and group messaging were also popular. The five-day festival ended March fifteenth. Hundreds of events were planned each day. They included speeches by some of the world’s leading technology industry experts, hands-on training workshops and many group discussions.
Margie Newman said: “South by Southwest Interactive is the place to be if you are into digital new media. You don’t want to miss it.”
For VOA Special English I’m Alex Villarreal. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. We're also on Facebook at VOA Learning English.