With details on millions of events of all sorts all over the world, Facebook is — among many other things — the closest thing the world has to a universal repository of things to do, such as concerts, parties, book readings and a whole lot more. But Facebook Events doesn’t seem to be all that high up on Facebook’s list of priorities. The feature hasn’t changed much over the years, and isn’t radically different on a phone than it is on a PC browser.
Enter Hangtime. The product of a startup of the same name, founded by veteran entrepreneur Karl Jacob, it’s an iPhone app — and web-based service — which aims to make it much easier to find stuff you’ll like to do among all the options in Facebook Events and other sources. The app debuted for the SXSW conference in March; version 2.0, a substantial upgrade, arrived on the App Store this week.
Overall, Hangtime has a nicely done interface: with a few swipes of your thumb, you can view the events in your vicinity on a given day, pull up specific information on a particular activity, see which of your friends are attending or considering doing so and RSVP. Using a map, you can also pinch-and-zoom to specify how big (or small) a geographic area you want to cover.
In all cases, the Facebook events you’re seeing are ones with settings that make them visible to you. But you’ll probably see plenty of events you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered — they’re a lot more browsable on Hangtime than they are on Facebook. The app is aimed especially at young people with active social lives, but even not-so-young types should find activities of interest.
The new version of the app pulls in the billboard-like artwork associated with an event from Facebook. It also includes events listed on Eventbrite, although with less detail than for Facebook events. You can now specify interests — such as Rock, Comedy, Dance and Books — so other topics you don’t care about are winnowed out. And events with RSVPs from your Facebook friends show up first, so you don’t miss them.
Hangtime has access to so much information on so many events that making everything approachable isn’t a cakewalk. Once you’ve told the app which types of events you’re interested in, you might still be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of stuff it tells you about; it would be nice if you could filter it down on the fly. And I found the visual aesthetic a tad intimidating at times, maybe because there’s a fair amount of visual clutter (all the giant event images tend to clash with each other) and information is displayed as white text on varying shades of gray.
Still, I like Hangtime and I like the direction it’s going. Founder Jacob told me that the company is working on an Android version — for now, owners of Android phones can use the web version — as well as additional sources of events. Other startups focused on events haven’t been breakout hits; some, like Upcoming.org, which Yahoo bought and shut down, haven’t made it at all. By piggybacking on Facebook and other big-time sources of activity data, Hangtime has a good shot at faring better than some of its event-startup predecessors.