As ‘South-by’ Nears, Social Media Sites Put On the Ritz

The race to win the group messaging wars ahead of this year’s South by Southwest Interactive festival continues: On Monday, Kik, a group messaging service that operates on multiple platforms, announced a new version of its application for both iOS and Android.
Kik also said that it has closed an $8 million round of Series A funding with RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. Fred Wilson of USV and Adam Ludwin of RRE have joined Kik’s board of directors.
On his blog, Wilson called the Kik product “simple, fast, and elegant. It gets the job done and doesn’t get in the way.” Wilson’s words—and, of course, USV’s dollars—are a ringing endorsement for an application that is competing with similar group messaging apps such as HighNote, PingChat, GroupMe and Beluga, which was recently acquired by Facebook.
Meanwhile, Gowalla, an interactive travel guide application that promises to have a strong presence at SXSW in Austin, Texas, put Gowalla 3 on the Android app market Monday. Gowalla CEO and co-founder Josh Williams promised, “It’s the best app ever created for Android. Ever.” User reviews pending.
Finally, one man who never needed a festival in Austin to launch his social media service has bought a dog. Its name is Beast. It’s cute and fuzzy and has a Facebook page.