Twas the year of the group text app when all through Austin, Texas
Every tech nerd at SXSWi was on their iPhone 4, always mass messaging.

For those of us in the tech world, the abundance of group texting apps has become an overwhelming phenomenon. In the days leading up to the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, I wrote about GroupMeFast Society, CloudTalk, HeyWire and Grouped{in}; I checked out TextPlus and Kik months ago, tested Beluga (which Facebook just bought for an unreported millions), then learned about Brightkite, Mogwee, WhatsApp, Yobongo and GroupFlier (after I wrote this post) which hopefully (deep breaths) completes the list of group messaging apps in the run for attention at SXSWi this past week.

Upon returning home, I gave my poor vibrating phone a rest and pinged the Twitterverse with a simple poll using a fun new app called Pollowers, developed by Pablo Dulman and Mariano Wechsler, owners of Digbang, an Internet applications development company based in Buenos Aires. Pollowers was launched in closed beta on February 3rd, 2011. While there are a lot of apps that let people create polls, Pollowers is dead simple and helpfully redirects people to a browser session.

I asked, What’s your favorite group messaging app? Reply to this tweet with the #- 1 for GroupMe 2 Beluga 3 Fast Society 4 Grouped{in} 5 other.

photo5 220x330 GroupMe Wins Best Group Messaging App at SXSWi

After two days of polling, the results are in.

1. GroupMe (47% of the total vote)

2. Beluga (29%)

3. FastSociety (23.5%)

4. Other (23.5%)

(Grouped{in} had 0 votes)

At this week’s SXSWi, the team behind GroupMe provided hundreds of hungry SXSWesters with free grilled cheese and beer. But that was just the beginning of its services. GroupMe powered hundreds, if not thousands of revelers with the ability to communicate and meet up in group texting fashion.

GroupMe, which also made our 2011 list of New York City startups to watch, launched in October 2010 as a way to easily create an instant SMS style chatroom across all phones- smart and dumb. Gearing up for SXSW, the startup added push-notifications, photos and location sharing to its popular group-texting app, available on both iPhone and Android. A week later, the 2.1 app updates included “Joinable Groups” which are open, publishable and visible to your friends within the app. Other GroupMe users can request to join and then be approved or denied by the group creator. They’ve also updated the app with a mutual friends feature, similar to Facebook’s much loved option. Overall, the new app is streamlined with customizable nicknames.

Screen shot 2011 03 14 at 11.31.35 AM 520x281 GroupMe Wins Best Group Messaging App at SXSWi

Before the conference, my friend at Popular Mechanics polled a few media minds, asking them to predict the biggest trends at this year’s SXSW. Rex Sorgatz hit the nail on the head, while Sarah Kunst wasn’t far behind. For the record, I still think LiquidSpace will be a hit.

“GroupMe will explode. Not quite as much as Twitter or Foursquare, but it will be the big hit. And it will reveal a new techno-sociological phenomenon: the live backchannel. Suddenly, people will worry they aren’t part of the right groups, haven’t been asked to join the exclusive chat rooms. And thus, for the first time ever, SXSWi will start to feel privatized. Between all the corporate sponsors and the nonpublic chatter and the private parties, it will be the beginning of the end.”
—Rex Sorgatz, founder of Kinda Sorta Media, media startup consultant

“Like Twitter and Foursquare, this year at SXSW will be a land grab for group messaging. Fast Society and GroupMe seem like the obvious favorites, but with their new status as a Facebook company I wouldn’t count Beluga out just yet, especially for people who prefer Facebook Places to Foursquare.”
—Sarah Kunst, Abrams Media Network, director of special events

“Yes, the space is young, but far too over-saturated with carbon-copy value propositions. Only GroupMe, boasting SMS support, Foursquare integration, and a few other bells and whistles, stands out,” writes FastCompany’s Austin Carr in a report today on the fragmented market.

Runners up included: WhatsApp was a big hit as well as Smyle, which is an Android and web/browser app that includes group chat but also does whiteboarding, as well as random requests for a return to simplicity- Twitter and email.

On Pollowers, users can share or Like the results of their poll on Facebook and Twitter. Polls can have durations of 5 minutes to one day and Pollowers will automatically retweet the poll questions depending on the duration. For this poll, I chose to run it twice for 6 hours each day, retweeting 3 times each day.

startuprally2 GroupMe Wins Best Group Messaging App at SXSWi