Insiders are not wrong when they insist this tech bubble is nothing like the last one. For one, the corporate war chests of Google, Yahoo, and Facebook—and the need to compete against them—have financed soft landings and acqui-hires for stalled out companies as far as the eye can see. But here's a new twist: not letting a moribund startup die.
Case in point: Highlight. The app, which pinged you when someone you had a connection with was nearby, was the "winner" of the location-based social network "wars" at South by Southwest last year... until everyone realized it wasn't worth draining all the life out of your battery because it set the bar for push notifications so low. In March 2012, TechCrunch said almost everyone who used it "ended up turning it off or uninstalling it."
It quickly became a punchline about the dissonance between Silicon Valley and the rest of the world, even more so than Path. As you can see from this AppAnnie chart, Highlight fell out of the top of the iOS store pretty damn fast:
In the iOS store, Highlight is currently ranked no. 398 in the Social Networking category among U.S. users. But that didn't stop the company from announcing a $4 million Series A round led by DFJ "with participation from existing investors Benchmark and Crunchfund, along with new investors such as Greycroft, Semil Shah, and Dave Morin."
We can see why Morin might have a soft spot for a struggling social network. In fact, I never deleted Highlight myself, but the last time a friend added me was 5 months ago; the friend before that was 7 months ago. Before today, the last time I got a "near you" notification was 9 months ago. Whether that's because I didn't open or no one else did is kind of irrelevant.
The really big news is that Highlight has a new icon, one that's not as likely to blind you if you happen to glance at it the wrong way.
The app has also gotten smarter about knowing what you're doing and where you are. It knows, for instance, if users are walking, biking, or traveling in a car, based on how fast they're moving. One of the cool — if a little bit creepy — features that it added this time around is a map which plots connections nearby and allows you to even see your connections moving, and which direction they're going.
Another creepy but cool thing it can show you is what music your connections are listening to on their headphones, either through iTunes or Facebook-connected services like Spotify or Rdio.
With the latest update to the app, Highlight has also enabled users to see updates from those that they haven't connected with in a while. Those updates are brought in from moments shared in Highlight, as well as those that users have posted on other networks, like Twitter and Instagram.
From the looks of this promotional video, the new Highlight overlaps a bit with Foursquare's new real-time recommendations feature, passively sent to your phone as you walk around. Foursquare is another app plagued, in part, by being ahead of its time. If it were released today, I think it would be the toast of Techmeme, but competition for the home screen is fierce and first impressions count.
Happy new bubble and merry soft landings for everyone?
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