The Two-Way
2:21 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

The Talk Of SXSW: The Mobile Location App 'Highlight'

When we look at our Twitter feed, all we see is SXSW. That's the South by Southwest festival that happens every year in Austin, Texas. At one point, it used to be all about music, but now the interactive portion of it has become just as big.

And as has happened most years, there is always a company that emerges as the darling of the festival. That's where Twitter made its first big splash in 2007. Foursquare made its debut in 2009.

This year, the "it" app appears to be Highlight. We downloaded the location app on our iPhone, but to be honest, we couldn't quickly make heads or tails of it.

Forbes describes it like this:

"The Highlight app, once you sign in through Facebook, automatically notifies you when friends or friends of friends are nearby. It also tells you what mutual Facebook friends you have and other mutual interests. The idea is to help you find people with similar interests or simply meet random strangers. One Highlight notifies you that someone is nearby, you can then send that person a message or bookmark that person for later reference."

The AP reports that the talk of Austin is that "social discovery apps" are the future. They spoke to Paul Davison, the 32-year-old founder and CEO of the social network, who said Highlight will, for example, let you know who you're standing in front of at the coffee shop line. And it will also let you know that they know your sister, for example.

The AP adds:

"'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."

Davison goes further in an interview with USA Today saying his app gives the world "a new sixth sense."

Of course there are plenty of privacy concerns to deal with and there's always the issue that these apps seem so cool in Austin during SXSW because there are so many people using them. And there are those who will say why not just say hi to a stranger and strike up a conversation in which you find out that they know your sister.

In any case, we'll leave you with this video interview from Forbes in which Davison explains his vision:

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.