There are a lot of exciting, fresh and hungry young startups launching impressive products amidst the vibrant atmosphere of Demo's Fall conference. While many are presenting us with a more streamlined, personalized digital portal to the real world, the applications inevitably bleed into each other.
Clearly, we won't have several favorite geocaching sites, or we'll have to check all of them to find our friends. At best, you and I have enough time to use roughly one of each, and we'll probably fall into the habit of using the one that more of our friends are using.
That triggers the conundrum: each new social platform is basically a blank page until people pile onto it. Essentially, each is useless until used. The only way to get around that catch 22 (aside from massive investments to promote development, partnerships and traffic) is to mix existing services in a useful (and fun) way. A few new products have managed to continue the trend of blending our online life into the physical world in pretty compelling ways.
Where You At?
The most effective presentations in the social category here have offered a tightly targeted consolidation of recreational life. New apps like MyPref, Go-Matic, Coparent and iSocialite rely on location-based services to connect you with the brands, products or people you love. Sometimes, they rely on existing connections from Facebook, Twitter, your address book, etc. and simply add a layer of convenience.
Go-Matic connects you with nearby buddies in a pretty direct, head-slapping, why-are-we-not-all-using-this kind of way. MyPref records your brand preferences and weaves them into a network. While offering the requisite algorithmic recommendations, it also has the sweet feature of alerting you when a product you love happens to be available at the store you're passing by. The link between online shopping and retail presence (with lots of added social features) seems pretty appealing, as long as you've got a handle on your shopaholicism.
Paving The Way
It pains me to say that some of the companies here will not make a splash on the social scene, perhaps even being out-shined by other presenters at this very event. Each and every startup seems genuinely determined to solve a problem, cater our technology to our lives, fill a glaring gap in the industry or help us navigate the real and digital worlds (sometimes simultaneously). But it seems to be a developing industry with much more of a future than a past.
Location-based services that require a lot of attention, or which bleed into the spectrum of augmented reality, may suffer from the fact that we simply can't be as absorbed in our phones as we are in our surroundings (unless you like walking into mailboxes). When we all get our Google glasses or retina implants, that might change. In the meantime, browse safely!