We’ve had another iPhone app come out of the woodwork to give us a preview before the impending launch of Apple’s App Store (despite the company’s rumored suggestions against it). It’s nrme (near me) – a messaging system that looks to cut down on online noise by constraining messages to people within a nine block radius of each other. The native app will be iPhone-only, and hopes to launch near the end of July.
At first, nrme sounds like little more than a geo-aware version of Twitter, but a closer look reveals some important differences that could make nrme a very popular app for iPhone users, especially in urban areas.
Users submit short messages through an app on their phone, which are mass-broadcasted to other Nrme users within a 9 block radius. Each time a user submits a message, it is readable by everyone else in the vicinity – there is no “follow” system. And while there is an option to intitate private chats with users, the primary function of nrme isn’t about socializing or making friends, it’s about getting the latest updates about things that are going on within walking distance.
For example, users could let each other know if a certain bar was getting over-overcrowded, or if a local store had just gotten a much-desired product in stock (iPhone 3G anyone?). The service could also be especially useful at public venues like concerts, sporting events, or conferences.
The company plans to monetize the app by including location and time based advertising at the top of the application. CEO Andrew Bennett envisions local bars and restaurants using the space to announce happy hours, or hotels offering last minute discounts.
Nrme has a lot of potential, but the app still has a few kinks to work out. For one, it’s going to have to deal with the ever-present “chicken and the egg” problem – nobody will use the service if there isn’t anyone to share with in the first place. The public nature of the system also makes it susceptible to noise – imagine having to browse through a random conversation between two people you don’t know, simply because you live down the street from them. To combat this, nrme will need to implement an effective way to block abusers, and a way to vote on messages so only the most informative ones will rise to the top.