People Discovery Apps
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Philip Cortes is co-founder of people discovery startup Meeteor . Follow him on Twitter @philipcortes . No clear winner came out of South by Southwest’s battle of people discovery apps. Highlight seems to have received the best press , and according to Robert Scoble, about 5% of SXSW used the service.
Highlight CEO Paul Davison Your phone now knows who you are, where you are, what you are doing and even who you might want to see. Thanks to services like Facebook, background location data, and the fact that all your friends now have smartphones, those devices can act as beacons, sending out information about us in the hopes of connecting with other likeminded individuals. At South by Southwest this year, all of those things are coming together in several apps that will make it easier to strike up a conversation in a roomful of strangers or figure out if this is the bar you want to spend the next hour in. Highlight, which is one of those apps, is on fire right now, and CEO Paul Davison believes the holy grail of smartphone-assisted serendipity in now within our grasp. There’s value in knowing more about the people around us than we do today, according to him.
Walking up the stairs to Highlight ‘s offices in San Francisco you pass by a bigger startup, Zimride , and then end up a just a single table with two chairs. In one is Paul Davison, who puts you at ease instantly by welcoming you in and getting you to talk about how you meet people. I’ve seen this story before. When Twitter was getting going it was a small team of folks, not much bigger.
The crowds and hype of South By Southwest make the massive Austin tech and media conference the perfect place for launching, well, any sort of app that needs crowds and hype to break out of tech circles and into the mainstream. So what can we expect to blow up next week, like Twitter, Foursquare, GroupMe and Beluga have in past years? Highlight is what I’m placing my bets on — and not for what it is today, but for what it could become. That is, the long-sought replacement for business cards. The new background location app got my attention at the beginning of February because it made it easy for me to find old friends and meet new ones without the friction of checking in. But some of you are going to prefer Glancee , because it has a tighter privacy focus, a subtle but smart algorithm for matching to nearby friends, and a beautiful design.
There’s a new trend set to emerge at this year’s SXSW know as “ambient social networking.” At the helm of this burgeoning trend is the budding two-person startup, Highlight , headed by founder and CEO, Paul Davison. While in the past, Foursquare and Gowalla were the location-based apps that made headlines, the latest innovation a is new breed that sits on your phone and runs silently behind the scenes. Rather than the check-ins feature that even Foursquare founder, Dennis Crowley, has admitted was losing steam, ambient social networking applications will only notify users with a pop-up notification when another user of the same application approaches your immediate vicinity. The purpose of an application like Highlight is simply to connect users with similar interests.
Tonight I’m getting message after message that friend after friend has joined Highlight (the photo above is of Paul Davison showing it off to some of its first users back in December on the day it launched into a closed beta). What is Highlight? Well, two weeks ago, in the Next Web, I named it as one of two apps that will “win” SXSW . What is it?
Let’s say you want to use your phone to find interesting new people or reconnect with nearby friends — without revealing your exact location. Glancee is the app for you, particularly if you’re an Android user. And the polished competitor to Highlight is getting a big update today, ahead of South By Southwest . The changes should please the nearly 11,000 users on it already, as well as the people who are going to find out about it at the conference. The most obvious alteration since I covered the app last month is a nod to location precision. The Radar feature now shows you how many “steps away” somebody is, as measured in number of feet.