Do we need another location-based check-in app? I would argue no, if it’s another Foursquare competitor. But Crowded Room, the first location-based app from IAC, isn’t just about your current check-in or about even the future check-in, something Ditto and other apps are trying to pursue. Crowded Room is introducing the idea of the ‘Might Go,’ a casual pre-check-in action that suggests where people might be interested in going that night, something that can create connections to friends and strangers based on shared places and interests.
At its heart, Crowded Room, which is available for free on iOS and Android, is trying to help users meet new people. The key is that in addition to the traditional check-in, which can be integrated with Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter, it invites people to say where they might go later that day. Users can indicate they might go to any number of places, which can then prompt others to head out with them. But the bigger goal is to help connect people that might have a shared affinity for certain places and other common interests.
Connecting users by place and interests
After a user indicates where they might go to, they can hit a People tab and see the other users who are currently at or plan to go the places a user might go to. With a Suggested button, they can see the profiles of people that Crowded Room thinks has something in common with a user, which could be a similar interest in places, common friends or other things. Crowded Room gets smarter with its recommendations as it learns more about a user.
Users can also drill down with a Places tab to get recommendations about places to hit. And they can see a map that shows where people are headed later that day, kind of like a heat map of intent. Specific places will show who might go there later that day or who is currently there. All the Might Go check-ins expire after one day so every action only refers to sometime later on the same day.
One of the more intriguing ideas is a Shortlist feature, which allows any user to privately show interest in another user that they’d like to meet. If another user also puts the original person on their shortlist, Crowded Room will notify both parties. Crowded Room offers a messaging feature to reach out directly to another user. Or it can be used to chat up someone at a location, which can be used to get a conversation started or just to get some information about that specific place.
Helping users find their kind of people
This has some similar aspects to other location-based apps. I mentioned Ditto, which helps friends coordinate for future check-ins. There seems to be an element of Sonar, which alerts users who check into a location about other people who are connected to them at that location. And there’s some Foursquare in there with recommendations about places to go. But Crowded Room is trying to be different, said Michael Kestenbaum, CEO of Crowded Room, who was formerly vice president of mergers and acquisitions for IAC.
He said the app isn’t really meant to coordinate evening plans with friends, something GroupMe and other messaging apps can do. And it’s not simply about building connections around a current location. And it’s more than just dating, something IAC already tackles with Match.com. It’s about helping users meet interesting people out and about.
“Where you go and what you do says a lot about the people you want to meet,” said Kestenbaum. “Crowded Room helps you find your kind of people at your kind of place by using the best aspects of social media to help create connections in the real world.”
Users have broad privacy controls and can decide who sees each check-in. They can also indicate what kind of people, male or female, that they’re interested in meeting.
Will the ‘Might Go’ work?
I’m curious about how this will work. I can see young, hip city dwellers potentially using this to see what’s happening in their city. If enough people use it, it can give you a good sense of what’s hot and where people might be headed. Now whether enough people use it to meet others, that’s harder to tell. Some people are avid users of location-based services but they’re not eager to leverage location to meet people. Some might find it a little bit much, or potentially a back-door dating service.
But for people who are open to meeting others, this could be interesting. The Might Go check-ins are a way to generate a lot more signals about someone beyond where they actually go. The fact that you short-list someone opens up a low-risk way to connect with another person. But again, you have to have people avidly using this to make it work. I wonder how many people will use this consistently. If I was dating, yeah, I might, but I’m not so I’m not sure I would make that much of an effort.
If Crowded Room can get people to show potential intent to go to places, this could also be a way for local businesses to advertise. If a person is interested in coming to my bar tonight, maybe a discount will seal the deal. And if you can see that people are interested in heading out to a certain kind of restaurant tonight, that might be an opportunity for a restaurant owner to target them with an offer. It’s too early to say how Crowded Room will make money, but this could be one way.
Either way, it’s another sign that companies are still very intent on innovating on the check-in. It’s still a very important signal and if location-based companies can show there’s value for a user in exposing their location or their future whereabouts, it’s another opportunity to provide services and potentially make some money too.