Super information highway?

PL8Scan's social networking service / CNET Networks

Most people don't go out driving to make friends, but that's the philosophy behind a new (and extremely optimistic) social networking SMS service called PL8Scan, which enables cell phone-wielding drivers to contact other drivers by text message via the latter's license plate numbers.

Having signed up to PL8Scan, drivers who wish to initiate contact with other road users send a text message to a central repository using a five-digit number. In the message, the driver includes the license plate number of the intended recipient (including details of the state in which it is registered), as well as the substance of the message. In most cases, this will be the end of the story.

However, on the remarkably slim chance the recipient is also a signed-up member of PL8Scan and has agreed to have his or her messages forwarded on by text message, the communication gets through to its intended target. The sample message that PL8Scan provides is. "Hey BLUEBUG ...what party are you going to?" Presumably, the ideal outcome involves BLUEBUG text-messaging a response, and the original sender being invited to the party. (Users can also check their PL8 messages online.)

Call me a pessimistic old scrooge, but I'm skeptical about this ever working in practice. Even in cases in which both sender and recipient are PL8Scan members, we suspect there is little chance for highway friendship to flourish: by the time you have grabbed your phone, punched in a message, sent it via the central server, and waited for it to be read by BLUEBUG, the traffic will likely have moved on. Those looking for digital friendships out of doors might have better luck getting hold of a Microsoft Zune and cruising around looking for someone to be social with.

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