Every year, tech, music, and film aficionados perform their version of the Hajj and descend on Austin like it’s a holy land. From this pilgrimage, great tech companies have emerged. In 2007, it was Twitter. In 2009, foursquare. This year, the pundits already called the victor: Highlight.
What Does It Do?
Notifies you when your friends are nearby. It doesn’t stop there, though. It also tells you if friends of your friends and people with whom you share Facebook interests are nearby.
What Problem Does It Solve?
Humans can’t see through walls and we can’t read minds. Highlight helps us overcome our evolutionary deficiencies by giving us these superpowers.
You were near your buddy, but you didn’t know it. Or, you’re at a conference and want to meet someone from Company X. Or, you’re at a bar and feel like chatting with someone about Band X. Or, you didn’t know your friend’s best friend from high school is sitting two tables away.
Highlight puts that information in your hands by pulling it from everyone’s favorite data dump: Facebook.
My plan is to find a stranger on Highlight, look them deep in the eyes, and say in my most foreboding voice, “YOU LIKE THE HONDA CR-V AND KNOW PERRIN DISNER. I CAN READ YOUR SOUL!”
Why Is It Notable?
It’s effortless. Download the app, log in with Facebook, and as Jeff Goldblum famously laughed in the first iMac ad, there’s no step three. After that, the app tell you who’s around and what you need to know about them.
Where’s It Going?
I know what you’re thinking. No woman will ever use this, and approaching a stranger in a bar based on shared Facebook Likes can only lead to excruciating awkwardness. Yep, agreed. Here’s where I see this heading:
“Highlight Me.” Step 1) Meet someone new. Step 2) Friend/Follow/Connect with person via Highlight. There’s no step 3. This dramatically simplifies the online friending process.
“Highlight Us.” Picture this: a band ends their set to a screaming crowd who’s hungry for more. “Highlight us,” says the singer, and everyone in the audience Likes their Facebook page and follows them on Twitter and foursquare. This takes 2 taps. (Psst! Highlight! Charge bands/people/companies to be at the top of the list with 1-tap connecting to all social services! Money money money money money!)
Location History. They already show my history of being near another person. By overlaying venue data (from foursquare, for example), this could finally provide a comprehensive “where I was” history. (Psst! Highlight! Businesses pay for that kind of information!)
Focused Groups. Right now, my phone buzzes a few times per day with news that someone else who Likes Barack Obama is nearby. That’s nearly worthless and I’m sure Highlight knows that. As more people join, users will be able to opt-in to only receiving notices for certain connections, whether they’re first degree friends, specific companies, Twitter followers, or otherwise.
Acquisition. Steve Jobs told Dropbox they’re “just a feature.” I think he was right, and I think Highlight might just be a feature of foursquare, Facebook, GroupMe, or LinkedIn. Nothin’ wrong with that.
Should You Download It?
Sure! Or don’t. It’s not an essential app yet, and I bet its downright worthless outside of NYC, San Francisco, and Austin during SXSW. But for those in dense, tech-giddy locals, I’ll say this: it’s kinda fun having superpowers. And I think these capabilities, whether under Highlight’s name or someone else’s, are here to stay.
DisclaimerSupreme®: I work at foursquare and have absolutely no clue if we’ve ever even spoken to the guys at Highlight.