Smartphones have become indispensable for some people to find nearby cool new places for a bite or a drink. Social networks like Facebook help those people connect with friends and colleagues. What if those two features were merged into one service — to find friends, and friends of friends, whenever they were nearby? Is that unnerving? Or is it terribly beneficial?
Many companies say it is beneficial and that their apps will help people forge new connections and meet someone they perhaps should know. App stores have been flooded with such tools in recent weeks. Kismet, Glancee, Highlight, Ban.jo, Meeteor, Pearescope, GetGauss, Intro, Qrious, Mingle and Sonar, hope to transform the smartphone into a social dowsing rod that delivers an alert when it detects other people nearby who share interests, friends or career goals.
Many of these services made their debuts or released fresh versions right before the opening on Friday of South by Southwest, the technology, music and film conference in Austin, Tex.
They want to catch the eye, and thumbs, of the throngs of technology enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who flock there to see the latest in start-ups and innovative ideas. What they really want is for that concentrated crowd of early adopters to return home and influence everyone else to use their apps. That strategy worked for Twitter and Foursquare, after all.