We are surrounded by people we don’t know on a daily basis, but what if those ‘strangers’ really aren’t as unfamiliar as we thought? A new breed of apps, categorized as “social discovery’ or ‘ambient awareness’ apps, has been generating a lot of interest. These apps enable you to connect with people based on your current location, relationships and/or common interests.
Apps such as Highlight, Sonar, Glancee, Banjo and Kismet work across social networks by combining check-ins and geotracking with social media platforms like Facebook to provide profile information of people within a close proximity. Keeping in mind that all apps work slightly different than one another, their main objective is to connect you with people based on location, relationships and similarities. Depending on the app used, locations are tracked either by the app itself (using gps tracking) or through check-ins and status updates. When a connection and/or friend is close by or within a set perimeter, your app will notify you with a ping or alert. You are then able to view their profile and connect with them through the app.
Let’s say I stop at my local coffee shop and check-in. My app will notify me if a friend, connection or someone with similar interests is at the same coffee shop or within the area. Let’s just say a classmate of mine is at that same coffee shop, my app will ping me with a notification that they are at the same location as me. This information is retrieved based on their check-in (Ex: Foursquare) and their profile relation to me (Ex: Facebook friends). I can then choose to engage in conversation with them via the app or find them and strike up a conversation in person.
What are the benefits for users?
1. Tells you what your relationship is with someone at the same location, event or check-in spot (ex: you follow them on Twitter, you have a mutual Facebook friend, etc)
2. Helps you find like-minded people to connect with at the same location, event or check-in spot (ex: you both like a certain band, or both share the same religious beliefs, etc)
3. It’s a virtual venue to meet and engage with people similar to you
The current debate is whether or not these apps will catch on or become accepted by social media and smart phone users. Some people may not be ready to accept this new form of locating, meeting and engaging with strangers. The other factor to consider is the issue with safety or security. Is an app of this nature safe for people to opt-in to and is it invading your privacy? We assume only time will tell as the app grows in use and popularity. Will you be checking out social discovery apps?