At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) there are some standout apps including Highlight and Banjo – both prominently featured on Apple’s App Store. CNET has even gone so far as to declare that SXSW is Highlight’s “battle to lose.” With such positive press, what sets these two apps apart from competitors in an already crowded social space?
The rise of passive location sharing
The defining feature behind these two apps is passive location sharing. This represents a tectonic shift for an industry so heavily focused on privacy, especially after recent public outrage over many prominent apps’ address book sharing dilemmas (Path and Twitter to name a couple high profile examples). Highlight and Banjo abandon the prior location sharing norms. Instead of having to tell the app to “check in” at a location (like on Foursquare, for example), they both rely on automatically sharing your location in the background. This creates a whole new social use case: finding or meeting new people with similar interests without having to press a button. For example, if you’re close to someone with a similar interest in technology, Highlight can pull in that information to alert you that this person might be interesting to you. In essence it helps to create meaningful interactions between new people based upon their interests, history, and shared identity – without the press of a button.
Banjo works in a similar fashion by allowing you to connect with friends in your nearby area. Not only will the app update when friends are nearby, you can search for individuals with similar interests to find new things to do in your area.
With such positive press already, both Highlight and Banjo are poised to break from the tide of social apps at SxSW. However, user growth will be especially critical for both of these apps. Without this critical early user mass, discovering people nearby could quickly lose its charm.
Time will tell how they fare, but Highlight and Banjo both represent an interesting turn for location based sharing.