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An interview with Wendell Davis of Meetro. What's up with Meetro?

Randy: Meetro's cool. I downloaded it and tried it out myself, but most of my readers have never heard of Meetro. Can you summarize what Meetro is for my readers?

Wendell: Certainly. Meetro is a desktop application designed to facilitate real-time meetings with people locally. Essentially we're trying to bridge the gap between traditional instant messengers and the many location-aware, mobile-based buddy-finding applications out there, to produce something of an all-purpose community toolkit. Have you ever wondered who lives close by, or been curious about the multitudes of familiar-yet-unfamiliar people you pass by on the street, every day? WE want to know not only because our best contacts have always been random, but also because we've found that the social link of a neighborhood can be just as strong as, say, similarity in musical taste. Combined, they're huge. That's why we built Meetro. It's all about digging deeper into the place where you are.

Randy: Meetro has location aware searching, that is, it's suggest people by how close they are to you in distance. Tell me about your location aware services?

Wendell: Certainly. In our research we have found that there are three relatively stable methods of finding location, as employable in a desktop application:

  • Wi-Fi hotspot signals. Wardriving a neighborhood or city regularly allows us to maintain a relatively accurate database of locations. This was our original idea for the application, and continues to be a core part of its operation.
  • Manual address inputting. This data is internally converted to GPS and used to marry a Meetro user with individuals around him. This is by far the most popular method so far.
  • GeoIP data. We have been experimenting with this but have yet to produce results as reliable as with the Wi-Fi or manual addressing. This support is internal only as we continue to refine the techniques.

Randy: What areas do you cover? I tried entering my Canadian address and found it impossible.

Wendell: Unfortunately right now it's just United States proper. We're working as quickly as we can to bring support to the rest of the world, and I apologize to the lot of you for the disappointment of having to wait. Make no mistake: International address support is absolutely a priority for us, and it will be announced as soon as it is ready.

Randy: How long have you guys been working on this technology? And tell us a bit about what software is running on the back-end. Is it LAMP, Java or .NET?

Wendell: We've been seriously hammering away at this thing for about a year, with the inclusion of quite a bit of down time late last year. As mentioned above, what we had originally envisioned was more specifically Wi-Fi based, so there was a lot of focus in that area early on. Later, as it became apparent that we needed a more general location system, addressing was added. That said, it's been a great deal of trial and error, but I feel quite strongly that we're on the right path now.

As for the back-end... I suppose you could call it LAMP, minus the A and P (with the exception of our core web server). So perhaps LaMOCL -- adding in Objective C and Lua -- is more fitting. Despite the arcane appearance, I've just invented an acronym.

Randy: Let's get to the facts about the Google rumours. Are you talking with Google?

Wendell: Well, as for the rumors, I hope to hell that they are true! We love Google, and I can certainly see why people might think that Meetro would fit in with their product line. We've talked with some people there -- they were aware of us before the story broke -- but the fact of the matter is that no acquisition is taking place.

Randy: What's the plans for the next six months? Do you have an imminent release?

Wendell: We do have an imminent release, the details of which will be revealed in a press release on Monday. As for our short-term plans, it's all about ramping up the user base and fostering the new Meetro communities that are springing up around the country. Additionally, we will be announcing support for more platforms and more IM networks, and generally making the software better and better... My definition of "better" includes support for non-US address schemes, of course!

Randy: What's your business plan? How do you intend to pay the bills and make money with Meetro?

Wendell: One of the key focal points of our work was the creation of a network layer which was extremely portable, and extremely flexible. These efforts have manifested themselves as a sort-of location-aware SDK, a "snap-in" product for developers who want to add location support to their applications -- be it games, messengers, or browser plugins. We plan to market a standalone package to commercial developers as early as Q1 2006. Thanks for your time and interest, Randy!

Randy: Thanks Wendell!