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An App That Helps You Cozy Up to Strangers

Highlight's version of "ambient social networking" is dominating South by Southwest before it even begins
An App That Helps You Cozy Up to Strangers

Paul Davison is in a hurry. Not just to board the plane that’s about to take him to his father’s retirement party in San Diego, or to get through the talking points about his new iPhone app, Highlight. No, Davison is rushing toward the future. “I’m completely convinced that in five or 10 years you’ll be able to walk into a room and know everyone’s name, where everyone works, and what people you know in common,” he says in a sentence that comes out in an unstoppable cascade. Smartphones and apps will become this “sixth sense we all have, and we won’t believe we used to not have that.”

This emissary from the future speaks with authority. Highlight, barely a month old, is tracing a viral path through the early-adopter ecosystem with astonishing speed. There are three things you should know about it. The first is that Highlight conquered this year’s South by Southwest, the Davos of tech, before it starts on Friday, March 9. TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, and others in the tech press have already anointed Highlight the product to watch. And in case this sounds like a dubious achievement, consider that last year’s SXSW standout, GroupMe, was sold to Skype for a reported $85 million less than six months after the conference ended. Foursquare and Twitter also made their names at the Austin (Tex.) gathering.