If you were to plot Facebook, Foursquare and Match.com as three overlapping circles on a Venn diagram, there’d be a neat little space in the middle for a fourth circle — one that uses location-based check-ins to help users find new friends to hang out with in real life.
That fourth circle is, essentially, Crowded Room, a new app that IAC unveiled this week. It plugs your movements and activities into an algorithm that recommends people you might like to meet who share your interests and tastes. Chances are they’ll look familiar, since they’re already frequenting your favorite bars and gyms.
Mike Kestenbaum, Crowded Room’s CEO, says the idea was conceived in response to a perceived hole in the market. “All the existing meet-new-people products are kind of niche,” says Kestenbaum, who was previously IAC’s VP of strategy, mergers and acquisitions.
Most of them are for dating — a subject IAC knows something about, as the owner of Match, OK Cupid and a bevy of hyper-targeted singles sites. Crowded Room isn’t specifically not for dating, but that’s not its primary or explicit purpose. That non-specificity mirrors the way people approach their real-life connections, says Kestenbaum. “There’s a spectrum in a lot of people’s lives,” he says. “Sometimes dating overlaps with networking, and that overlaps with socializing.”
Crowded Room integrates with Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, and users are “strongly encouraged” to use those services to blast out their check-ins, but reaching people in one’s existing networks is somewhat beside the point. “We never intended it to be an app to communicate with your existing friend group,” says Kestenbaum. “There are a lot of apps that do a pretty good job of that.”