Justin Time and Justin Place

Mobile technologies for identifying people nearby who are looking for someone like you have already emerged. A Japanese gadget called Lovegety, popular in the late 1990s, used short-range wireless communication to compare profile and sound an alert when a compatible other with the same device is near. These devices never achieved a large enough user population to realize their potential; without a sufficient density of people with the devices, a user might never come in contact with another user (Iwatani 1998).

More recent efforts, like the Media Lab's Serendipity project (Eagle et al. 2004), attempt to fuse the social network concepts behind tools like Friendster with the just-in-time, just-in-place aspect of the Japanese devices. Serendipity uses location-aware mobile phones to identify friends of friends who might like to meet. Because it tracks user location with a central server, it avoids the problem of short-range, peer-to-peer devices that might never come in close enough proximity with another device. However, as it is deployed, it will still face the same critical mass problem than online dating Web sites have already overcome; with Serendipity, one can identify only other Serendipity users. The success of systems like Serendipity, some of which are also being developed by online dating companies, is unclear as of this writing.

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