Checkins are not the future. They interrupt the moment and quickly become outdated. Highlight, a mobile app launching today, offers a better gateway to serendipitous meetups. All you do is download Highlight, turn it on, and let it run passively in the background. Then when you come within a few blocks of another Highlight user who’s your Facebook friend or that you have friends or interests in common with, Highlight sends you a push notification and lets you message them.
Highlight’s founder Paul Davison excitedly explains, “Nothing affects our lives and happiness more than the people we’re closest to, but the way we learn about them is totally random.” When his sister moved to the US from London and needed to meet new people, Davison got the idea for Highlight. Davison previously worked for Benchmark Capital and at Metaweb through its acquisition by Google, but is now half of the extra-lean bootstrapped two-man team behind Highlight.
The iOS app’s home screen shows a reverse chronological list of all the people you’ve crossed paths with. Clicking through to someone reveals basic information they’ve added, mutual friends and interests, Highlight status updates, and a log of every time you’ve been nearby them. The app can drain battery life as it runs GPS in the background. However, Davison says he hasn’t heard many complaints from users, and it should become even less of an issue as the app is further optimized and mobile tech improves.
Highlight’s internal message feature can help you meetup with friends who might be in the coffee shop next door, or introduce yourself to potential business contacts, buddies, or romantic interests. A pause button lets you go off the radar until you next open the app if you don’t want to share your location.
By default your profile can appear to anyone you cross paths with, but a privacy option lets you restrict visibility to friends of friends only. Some people are still sure to think Highlight is creepy right now. Like many great social technologies, though, Highlight may be ahead of the curve. Davison insists creating a safe, trusted network where both men and women feel comfortable is a priority.
“Whether we do it or someone else does it, I know this 6th sense is going to exist and it’s going to change the world”, Davison believes. “In the future we’ll look back and say ‘I can’t believe we didn’t have it and walked around blind.’”
Highlight could disrupt existing location services like Foursquare and Facebook Places, or at least spur them to evolve. Those companies may attempt to copy its passive functionality, so Highlight needs to establish traction now. But really, Highlight does something new. The way Instagram makes you see art everywhere you look, Highlight makes you feel connected where you were once surrounded by strangers.
Highlight is now available for iOS to anyone in the US.