“It was a fun year. It was really exciting. It’s been a whirlwind,” Highlight creator Paul Davison said during a private press event Wednesday. “We’re really excited about what happened last year, but we’re really looking forward to this year,” he added.
Launched on Jan. 24, 2012, the location-sharing app is now just over a year old. It made a splash at SXSW in 2012. Now, a few weeks before SXSW 2013, Davison is announcing Highlight 1.5, the biggest update to the app since launch.
Highlight 1.5 builds on the existing Highlight platform, adding a number of new features, including photos.
Highlight 1.5 now supports photo sharing. The app allows you to take photos, and then share those photos with people located near you.
Pictures shared on Highlight are a little different than photos you might share on other services, primarily because everyone who can see the photo is at the same place.
“With Highlight, when you share a photo with someone, they’re there too,” says Davison. “So it doesn’t do any good to tell them where you are.”
Davison told a story of beta testing the app with a friend in an office located near Highlight. In the morning, the friend took a picture of himself waving and wishing the Highlight team a good day. That photo showed up on everyone’s phone nearby (in this case, the Highlight team), who then sent a message waving back.
“It’s a strange feeling to be able to go through the walls,” says Davison.
Much like location data, photos can be seen by anyone within range. So that good morning message could also be seen by a passerby, or people in other offices using the app, who can become part of the conversation as well.
“It’s not photo sharing in the way we typically think about photo sharing. It’s photo sharing plus physical space,” Davison says.
Highlight also doesn’t handle events like other apps do. There’s no events tab, there’s no official organizer, and you can only start an event in the here and now — so you’ve got to be there. There are also no invitations.
Events can be created by anyone, and anyone who is located near you can join in. While you’re part of an event, everything you post on Highlight will be tagged with that event. When you leave the geofence created for the event, then you’ll automatically leave the event on Highlight.
The idea is that in order to participate in the event you have to be there. When a new person arrives, Highlight will prompt him or her to join the event if they’re present, ensuring that everyone is part of the right event.
“It’s more like a smart hashtag than an events service,” says Davison.
Photos from events are forever tagged with that event, making them browseable later on, just as you might revisit a hashtag on Twitter.
Highlight 1.5 will be available today for both iOS and Android at 12pm PST/3pm EST