Apps Buzz Is Location, Location, Location
Mobile Tech Today discusses why Location Based Networking is all the buzz.
At SXSW, the frenzy of the location-based networking apps is like a reality TV show, with a dozen startups fighting to be the darling of the conference. There are variations to these location-based networks, but the basic premise is to link a profile and connections of a social network like Facebook, with the locations logged in mobile phones.
After a series of emails and phone calls, Paul Davison is located in a busy hallway at the Austin Convention Center.
Davison is founder and CEO of the location-based social network startup Highlight, one of the most talked-about apps at the South By Southwest Interactive Conference. SXSW has helped launch Twitter and Foursquare, and at this year’s gathering, no topic is more buzzed about than location-based social network apps, like Glancee, Ban.jo, Sonar, Intro, Kismet and others.
Walk into many panel discussions at SXSW, and you’ll hear someone saying such services, known as social discovery apps, are the future. Davison, an earnest and exuberant 32-year-old California native, thinks so. He sees wasteful social randomness everywhere — in finding friends, future spouses and co-workers.
“The way that we find these people and learn about these people is, and always has been, horribly random and inefficient,” exclaims Davison, marveling at centuries of missed opportunities. “We don’t realize how bad it is because it’s always been that way, and we just accept it.”
There are variations to these location-based social networks, but the basic premise is to link a profile and connections of a social network like Facebook, with the locations logged in mobile phones.
Davison describes reality as a boring, “bizarre version of Facebook where every profile is just a single photo” and provides no information about its users. The information we put online about ourselves, Davison would like to attach to our physical selves.
But do we really want to know more about each other?
Location has been a part of networks, like Foursquare, that is centered on a user checking in at a place such as a bar or a restaurant. Most of these new apps, which all launched recently and are in a nascent stage of usage, track ambient locations with permission and don’t require constant action.
Such apps passively monitor location, running in your smart phone’s background (and therefore using precious battery life) and sending notifications when Facebook connections are nearby. Different apps weigh connection differently, but they pull from factors like interests, life history and similar friends.
Privacy concerns will be a major factor in the popularity of social discovery. Many are wary of distributing their location to the wrong people, and stalking concerns will surely keep others away.