For those of us who are techies at heart, this time of year is always exciting. New products get launched, the Mobile World Congress wets our appetites for advances in mobile, and of course, South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) showcases some of the startups and developments that will change the connected world. With SXSW almost in the books, we’ve been keeping close tabs on the developments from Austin, and it’s clear this year’s stand out startup is a social location service called Highlight.
While SXSW buzz by no means guarantees that a company will become a juggernaut, it certainly doesn’t hurt (just ask the folks over at Twitter). We’ve seen the push towards location-based apps emerge over the past four years, and Highlight seems to be continuing that trend.
Highlight works by accessing your Facebook information and then using GPS coordinates to alert you about people you may know in your vicinity. The program allows users to view nearby people’s Facebook information, giving social interaction a new level of familiarity.
Location-based apps have been around for a while now, but with the possible exception of Foursquare (which also got its first public thumbs-up at SXSW in 2009) they seem to have not caught the mainstream favor of the masses. Programs like Loopt and Brightkite, both location-based services, have become buried in the app catalogue and are rarely used outside of small tech circles.
Maybe the best example of the location-based model failing, arrived this weekend as well. After debuting at SXSW three years ago, competing with Foursquare, and eventually being bought by Facebook, the location-based service Gowalla was officially shut down. Gowalla operated by allowing users to check in to locations and share their travels via mobile. Facebook has included a number of location–based features in the past few years that allow for mobile check-ins, which eventually seemed to render Gowalla unnecessary.
Every business is unique, but that doesn’t mean Highlight is in the clear. While Highlight is getting all the press from SXSW, it already has direct competitors like Banjo and Glancee. Highlight has been chided for not being Android friendly (and scolded within the FiddleFly office for not having a mobile-optimized site), so time will tell how the program fares.
Of course, SXSW was not just a celebration for Highlight. There were plenty of great speakers, new developments, and controversial ideas (such as the marketing firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s idea to provide homeless people with 4G hotspots).
Tell us what you think about SXSW, Highlight, or anything else on your mind. Follow us on Twitter @fiddlefly for updates and check us out on Google+ and Facebook to see new photos and info about our team.