Half a decade ago, some of the brightest minds at South By Southwest Interactive came together to create the worst website in the world. Jeffrey Bennett proposed online image search for the blind. David Friedman pitched PeopleIPO, allowing anyone to buy shares in you. The winner, though, was Merlin Mann’s FlockdUp, an incomprehensible social network for “thought leaders” that seem to be constructed entirely of buzzwords. “FlockdUp is really uniquely positioned at this juncture to suction all of the oxygen out of this vertical, vis-a-vis an incredibly sticky, almost uncomfortably sticky, humid-weather-seated-on-a-vinyl-seat kind of approach to an accretive social network,” Mann told a rapt audience in Austin.

It was goofy fun of the sort that helped to define SXSW over the last decade as the thinking person’s tech conference. While other gatherings concerned themselves with flashy startup launches, SXSW offered a place for fellowship among bloggers, designers, and other creatures of the web. “Worst Website Ever”, which was organized by the beloved first-wave blogger Andy Baio of Waxy.org, was a bit of harmless fun. But the event also reflected a growing unease with SXSW’s evolution from a relatively intimate gathering to a rollicking corporate brand orgy, the internet’s own Lollapalooza.