By John Moore, CNBC.com
Every Internet giant, from Google ( GOOG) to Facebook, may have seemed to come out of nowhere to become a household name, but they all tapped emerging consumer and business trends. The new breed of Internet stars combines two separate trends -- social networking and mobility. "The platform shift from the nonsocial to the social is opening up a bunch of different opportunities to create new businesses on top of existing categories," says Andrew Braccia, partner at venture capital firm Accel Partners. "With that shift comes the opportunity for people to build new products and services that take advantage of the unique characteristics of those platforms." Braccia notes that social networking and mobility have had a particularly strong impact on online retail, content and gaming. The five companies featured here haven't quite reached superstar status, but given the attention they've received from consumers and venture capital firms alike, they're on their way. Foursquare
The biggest buzzword in social networking is "geolocation" -- the ability to broadcast where you are and find out where your friends are. And the biggest name in geolocation thus far is Foursquare, which turns location-sharing into a game that lets users compete for points. When users check into certain venues often enough from their mobile phones, they earn badges. Check in more than anyone else and you can become the "mayor" of a specific location, until someone else checks in more and claims the title. Augie Ray, senior analyst at Forrester Research, says this type of real-time geographical information is valuable to marketers. Starbucks ( SBUX), for example, recently offered mayors of their stores a $1 discount on Frappuccinos. "The geolocation tools are not merely saying where somebody is, they're also allowing people to associate themselves with their activities and their favorite brands, so that also becomes very relevant information that marketers can use to target," says Ray. This month the service registered its 2 millionth user -- just three months after passing the 1 million user mark. In late June, the company raised $20 million through a later round, preferred stock sale, led by Union Square Ventures. Similar companies to watch: Booyah, Gowalla.