The question going into SxSW was, “What will the breakout app be?”

And the conventional wisdom was that it would be one of the group messaging clients. Conventional wisdom was wrong. It was Airbnb. Airbnb was everywhere at SxSW this year. But quietly. And they were killing it.

As someone who is learning the ins and outs of building a marketplace I can appreciate how well they’re doing it (and tried and failed to track down Brian for a margarita at SxSW). Meanwhile my friends who do iOS development are impressed by how well done the app is. But mostly I just fell in love with the design of their gift card packaging.

More importantly it let the underground SxSW survive another year. The official show was so ridiculously huge, the hotels blocked out and booked so extensively in advance, that the community that made SxSW important and has been thriving in the badgeless favela, wouldn’t have found places to stay without Airbnb. (thanks to Buzz for helping me refine that insight)

Always interesting to see how fast these things converge when they start to converge. When a standardized creation myth starts to emerge you’re observing a trajectory which is starting to steepen sharply upward. These two interesting posts by Fred Wilson and Paul Graham capture two of my favorite pieces or the Airbnb story: the breakfast cereal hustle, and the hitting the street commitment to knowing their users.