SXSW is not dead and people who keep writing that it has died don’t get it. SXSW has evolved from child to awkward teenager and in the next couple of years will emerge, hopefully, a well adjust adult.
I’ve attended SXSW since 2002, attending first for the movie festival with a friend and then discovering lots of intellectual technology discussions happening at the same time. This year the entire interactive conference fit in one small wing of the convention center.
In 2004 Jonathan Abrams, the founder of Friendster gave a keynote. That’s right Friendster, that is how long SXSW has been going on. 2005 brought us Malcolm Gladwell and 2006 Jimmy Wales. See a trend?
By 2007 SXSW graduated to the next level. The panel picker was introduced, Twitter exploded on the scene and became the vernacular of every geek. Parties and meetups dominated the scene as the conference migrated slowly away from the convention center and into the bars and lofts on 6th.
By 2010 the days of Geeks Love Bowling and enlightening technical debate had come to an end. In its place swarmed celebs, corporate executives and major sponsors. But that is OK, right?
Despite it feeling like the transition happened overnight it didn’t. Evolution is not without pain, but evolution is not death, it is growth. The event is the greatest networking event on the planet right now. It is spring break for adults and while we may never see a breakout company like Twitter emerge again, that moment in 2007 created the SXSW we know and love today.