It’s South By Southwest time again, and you know what that means — it’s time for another round of apps to announce launches and updates to help make your mandatory fun time in Austin, Texas that much better. Today, social-local-mobile app Highlight is doing another round of updates to its app, allowing users to share photos and events with others around them.
Highlight first launched early last year, promising users a whole new era of serendipity. The idea was to help connect its users with other around them who might know the same people, or perhaps have the same interests. It released an update shortly before last year’s SXSW, letting users actually, uh, “highlight” one another. But for various reasons — including a very real fear of mobile battery drain — it didn’t quite catch on as well as its team hoped. Highlight has since added an Android app to expand its addressable user base, as well as new tools for creating profiles to tell people more about yourself.
Anyway, it’s another year later and Highlight is rolling out a whole new version, Highlight 1.5. CEO Paul Davison called it the biggest update ever. The first addition to the app is photos, which will allow users to share photos based on location and providing the context around that. The photo capability allows users to tag locations, people that they’re with, and provide captions. The whole idea is to be able to share photos with users nearby without having to explicitly email, SMS, or share via other photo-sharing tools.
“Most photo-sharing services are about allowing me to take an experience I’m having right now, and share it with people in other parts of the world,” Davison said. But with Highlight, you’re sharing with people around you. “It’s more about communication than it is about publishing… It provides you with this ambient sense of closeness.”
One of the most important parts of the new photo feature is the ability to add captions. Captions enables users not just to provide more context around the photos, but also use the service more creatively. According to Davison, the ability to share photos and captions enables users to share photos only with a select group of people who are around them.
“These aren’t things you would publish out to thousands of your friends,” Davison said. “It feels like it’s intended for the people in the room.”
Events are another new feature of the app. Users can only connect to events happening nearby, and they can only add events that are happening at a certain time. Those events are geofenced and time-based, so that users who are nearby an event will get a notification asking them if they’d like to join. Any photos or posts they make after joining an event will then be added to it. Davison said events are kind of like a smart hashtags, in making that information available to other users.
The update adds to Highlight’s efforts to connect people nearby. “We feel like we’re at the beginning of another special time in history,” Davison said. That will be powered by all the mobile technologies, including all the information and data that can be tapped by smartphones based on proximity. But there’s a long way to go. “It feels like the early days of the web,” he said.
And for those who want to take part in that fun, the new version of the app goes live today at noon PT. Whee.
Highlight is a mobile ambient awareness app. When you come within a few blocks of another Highlight user who is your Facebook friend or that you have friends or interests in common with, Highlight sends you a push notification and lets you message them. The app’s homescreen displays a reverse chronological list of all the people you’ve crossed paths with.