Article in Startup, Social Media, Social Networking, App Review, iPad categories.

The Geo-Social Show Goes On

The geo-social domain continues its rapid growth with no slowdown in sight. The Fueled team, in fact, has already written about Sonar...twice. Just to give…

The geo-social domain continues its rapid growth with no slowdown in sight. The Fueled team, in fact, has already written about Sonar...twice. Just to give a quick and simple recap, Sonar aims to help you meet new people and connect you to those who share similar interests. It also finds connected users people from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Yes, it’s partly about revealing your location and meeting complete strangers. That may very well be a strong deterrent for a lot of people, so what’s to bridge the gap between comfortably meeting people and doing so with an element of discomfort?

One promising solution is to not try to connect with strangers, but to focus on reaching out to people you already trust, at least to some degree. Those that fit into this category are friends, obviously, and also friends of friends that you’ve never met. With the latter, you don’t know them, but they’re like a second cousin in the sense that a built-in level of trust already exists because of the extended relationship. Sonar already does this, making it very versatile, and now putting its own spin on the idea is a mobile app called OneAway. It appears to be the next step in the right direction. OneAway notifies you of the proximity of friends, friends of friends, and more. The app refreshes automatically every twenty minutes, but it can be manually refreshed whenever the user pleases. Setting OneAway apart is a cool heat map feature that shows would-be connections outside the app’s radius. Names are not revealed in the heat map, just that there are people in the specific area shown.

To some, geo-social apps are a considerable invasion of privacy, but the terms are agreed to by anyone who uses them. OneAway is arguably a more trustworthy option than some of its counterparts because of the privacy on the heat map, but it could improve itself in one or two areas. Most striking is that the radius to find potential connections is very small: two blocks! Picture yourself in New York City in any neighborhood. What are the chances that one of these people you might like to meet up with is just two blocks away? The obvious answer is extremely slim. The imperative and laughable “radius factor” here may prevent people from taking it seriously as a real social tool.

Like Sonar, OneAway also promises to link people based on their common interests. Another concern though is that OneAway gives little explanation of how, or how effectively it achieves this. The source for recommended connections is Facebook alone, but commonalities are something else. Sonar does a more thorough job with interest-based connections. The fact that OneAway’s website gives very little information about the app as a whole, may help it or hurt it.  A lack of information may pique curiosity and entice people to download it, or it could leave people questioning what it really is in a critical manner.
OneAway is a nice improvement on the geo-social apps that already exist, and no matter what your feelings are toward privacy, this is the type of thing that could go viral until it’s dethroned.  There are a couple of kinks that must be worked out before OneAway is to become extremely popular. Most eye-popping are the tiny physical boundaries inside which you can connect with someone. It could be a technological limitation, but it could also be that OneAway needs to do some serious work to expand these boundaries. Other than that, it has the potential to go as far as Sonar, or even further when it comes to downloads - that heat map is just so alluring.

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