Dating for Apps

Is it just me or do we think there are a lot of dating apps and websites out there? I mean these days you can swoon, meet an appetizing bagel or coffee, say ok to cupid, match, find (e)harmony, scout, tinder, zoosk, or digitally ponder if “we” should do something together—from the convenience of your mobile device, and all before breakfast.

So, full disclaimer, I have dabbled in the wonderful world of online relationship searching in the past. But, by now my worldwide web modalities of choice are probably considered “old school” in the face of newer, [number of choice].0 offerings. I have yet to try out some of the cutting edge developments in mate-matching (which, incidentally, could double as a moniker for a new app.)

So I look into the circus, or cirque de soleil, if you will, from the lens of someone who has been to a performance a long time ago. And I wonder a few things:

1. Is it exhausting or exhilarating to be on many sites? I imagine that it could make initial introductions and ‘get to know you’ conversations seem increasingly casual. But, it could also take the edge off those ill-fated connections destined for the hills.

2. How effective are these dating apps at gaining users? I mean there’s no doubt an initial hurdle to build the app but the magic really seems to be in gaining traction. Few users, and it’s the online equivalent of showing up to speed dating only to find three other people there, one of whom is the creepy guy you’ve seen in the corner of more than one singles events.

To be sure, though, the success of individual apps in gaining users has shown there is indeed a ready audience. Tinder has already served 50M matches and is used by 85% of its audience at least monthly. And they just launched in October 2013.

3. Are the apps making money? The entrepreneur’s voice in me asking—scalability is totally possible, the addressable market robust, and the ability to find ‘blue oceans’ within the crowded sea of dating apps are materializing. But there are challenges such as competition, creating quality experiences, repeat customers, and measuring & articulating success of these apps.

A quick tour of tech news sites shows that love and money are more related than we might think. Zoosk has raised well over $400M in VC funding since its launch in 2007. And even since then, dating apps have become more widely embraced, used, and propagated. To be noted, nonetheless, is that outside funding doesn’t necessarily correlate to revenue being generated by these apps.

4. Are they enriching people’s lives? This is the romantic and idealist in me asking. Are the apps leading more fulfilling or meaningful relationships than the alternatives, or does ease of access add unique value? I find myself wondering whether the tech component enables or handicaps those early stages of a connection. Just as other modes of dating, apps can make the quantity of fish seem abundant or highlight that ‘good’ fish are still hard to come by.

Interestingly, in a completely unscientific poll, I gather that online/app dating has risen as the mode of choice to find matches of folks in my networks. Everyone seems to have online dating stories, and the ‘same-side network’ pull of that common experience seems to bring in even more people.

5. Does the extreme ease, unparalleled accessibility, and affordability ever make it hard to leave? Once you’re on the sites and know what to do, I can’t help to wonder if it is hard to ever be truly off of a site. Community-building is as much art as science, and when you feel connected to a community, does it become hard to leave—-even if that was exactly what you thought you wanted to do.

I wonder this with confidence, because years and years after I logged off of one of the sites, I still get a steady stream of pings, nudges, and referrals to re-join. Luckily these go to an email account of tertiary (or lower) degree that I check maybe once a year.

Surveying the crowd of online dating apps, I would also like to take the time to humbly request a few things from their architects:

Make your apps beautiful.
Make them simple and intuitive.
Make them help you learn something about yourself as well as what you want in a relationship.


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