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Pinterest acquires the team behind Highlight, the breakout social app that wasn't

The location-based social app never broke through

In the spring of 2012, an app named Highlight seemed poised to break out. In 2009, Foursquare had captivated early adopters with the idea of location-based social networking. But where Foursquare focused on places, Highlight founder Paul Davison was focused on people. His app let you passively share your personal information with the people around you, in the hopes that it would enable all sorts of serendipitous interactions. But the app never found its footing, and Highlight officially meets its end today: the company has been acquired by Pinterest, and its apps will be shutting down.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. But Math Camp, the small team that made Highlight and a handful of other apps, will join the visual search site. "The team behind Math Camp are experts in building innovative mobile products to connect people with similar tastes and help them discover day-to-day images and video across platforms," Pinterest said in a statement.

I loved the idea behind the original Highlight

I loved the idea behind the original Highlight. It made me think of every time I had entered a room full of strangers wishing I knew what we might have in common — a mutual friend, maybe, or the same alma mater. It also seemed useful in settings where you ran into someone who you had met before but whose name you had forgotten — something that happens to me roughly once per day. But even after a reboot that attempted to show you only people you had some sort of connection to, Highlight never reached critical mass. As a result, it wasn't as useful as its founders hoped.

shorts

Earlier this year Math Camp returned with Shorts, an insane social camera roll that encouraged you to make the majority of your smartphone camera photos public. It was never clear to me why you would want to do this, and the app did not resonate with the broader public.

Even though it didn't succeed, I still think Davison's original idea for Highlight had merit. Facebook eventually adopted a "nearby friends" feature that alerted you when people you knew were nearby, which brought one of Highlight's core ideas to the masses. And I still think that one day you'll walk into a conference and have access to a dossier of nearly everyone in the room, complete with all the information they've chosen to share.

"When you can help people discover the world around them and connect them with others who share their interests, it just makes life better," Davison said in a statement today. And he's right about that. He may just have been a little too early.