Following Michael’s post the other day about the future of social networking, we have heard of several more ways the mobile, location-aware nut is being cracked already.
One of these is an “experiment” by MyBlogLog started at eTech and SXSW that leverages Bluetooth technology to discover the people around you. The Java-based service, previously named “Meetspace” but now known as MBL Mobile, works on both Bluetooth-enabled laptops and Blackberrys.
Once you’ve installed the Java applet and bound your Bluetooth ID to your MyBlogLog ID, you will be able to see other MyBlogLog members within a range of about 30 feet who have also opted into the special service. Their avatars show up on a page that breaks people down into “People Around You” and “People Encountered Most”, the former being those currently detected near you and the latter being those you’ve found yourself near the most. You can click on users to see their activity streams and commonly shared groups.
This service obviously works best when you have a group of geeks huddling around the same areas, such as conference halls. As Marshall Kirkpatrick pointed out on RRW, it also has privacy implications that should give MyBlogLog users pause before they sign up.
For other companies working on location-aware social networking technologies, check out Imity, Mobiluck, Aka Aki, and Loopt. The first three, like MyBlogLog, use Bluetooth-based detection whereas Loopt depends on GPS. LimeJuice and MeetMoi are two similarly intended startups that only require SMS. In the long run, GPS is probably the best technology for this sort of thing (provides much greater range and detail than Bluetooth), but unfortunately lots of phones don’t have GPS capabilities yet.