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Dating appdates (April 2024): Bumble drops ‘women first’ messaging, Grindr launches AI chatbot, Cuffing, and more

There are many reports of predatory behavior from dating app users (usually men), but are dating apps themselves “predatory”?

A group of men in the US think so and have sued a dating app company over their business practices, which the firm denies are unethical.

Elsewhere, speed dating is making a comeback and potentially moving in on the apps’ turf, new apps Cuffing and Bindr are trying to carve niches, Grindr is working on a ‘romantic’ AI chatbot, plus another new app, Lola, can offer brutal dating feedback.

Bumble considering ditching women-first messaging

Bumble is gearing up for a big relaunch later in 2024, and one of the ideas being considered is ditching the ‘women first’ messaging principle that has been the core of the app’s identity.

Launched by former Tinder executive Whitney Wolfe Heard in 2014, for many the appeal of Bumble came from only women being able to message matches first, the idea being that they wouldn’t be deluged with messages from men and would feel more in control.

However, Bumble’s new CEO Lidiane Jones told Fortune that ditching this feature was among the innovations being considered for the relaunch. She said: “It’s obviously been our signature… but it feels like a burden for a subset of our customers today.”

This could make sense, as for many dating app users sending the first message can feel pressure-laden, and many matches never even make it to the messaging stage. Would not feeling like you have to be the one to break the ice be more empowering?

Another option being considered for the relaunch is giving women the option to send pre-written ‘ice-breaker’ messages to men when they match (a version of this is already available on Bumble for Friends).

If Bumble loses the feature that sets it apart from the rest of the Tinder clones, where will its appeal lie, beyond it generally being considered one of the ‘OG’ dating apps? We’re scheduled to find out around Fall 2024.

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Grindr working on ‘romantic’ AI chatbot

Grindr is reportedly working on an AI chatbot where you can have sexy (or at least explicit) chat within the app.

According to Platformer, insiders at the LGBTQ dating app have revealed that the chatbot may be trained on private chats between human users, depending on consent settings.

This may be Grindr jumping on the adult AI chatbot trend, but it’s also likely part of a wider push for the app to claw back clout and industry performance. Grindr share prices have fallen recently, along with a general downturn in the dating app sector.

It’s also reported by Platformer that the app’s creators are planning on putting some features that are currently free behind a paywall, towards an aim of monetizing the Grindr experience more aggressively.

Seems like Bumble isn’t the only OG dating app looking to shake things up in 2024.

Speed dating: the new-old Tinder?

Remember the days when asking someone on a date didn’t require looking at a mildly pixelated face? A return to these heady times is taking place to some degree in the US, it seems.

Event and ticketing website Eventbrite released some data about the events it hosts in the country, revealing that attendance for ‘in-person’ dating events grew by 42 percent between 2022 and 2023. The site said that the 2023 numbers were higher than pre-Covid pandemic figures, suggesting that they weren’t just due to Covid-related socializing reluctance in 2022.

Game-based dating events grew by 163 percent from 2022 and 2023 in terms of attendance, with sporty dating events such as singles spin classes rising by 135 percent. Singles events for Valentine’s Day grew by 41 percent.

Is this another threat to the dating app industry, which many consider to be on a downward trajectory already? Perhaps – but the chances that those singles were also sneakily swiping in spin class breaks are pretty high.

Love “emerald eyes”? You might like Cuffing

“Cuffing” is the (mildly unpleasant) slang term for beginning a committed romantic relationship. And now it’s the name of a dating app that attempts to show off unique traits and match you with people who have the traits you seek.

The traits focused on by Cuffing, which was developed in Hong Kong, seem to be physical rather than personality-based. You can, for example, say that you like “lush eyelashes and emerald eyes”, “full lips or toned legs”, tattoos, freckles… the list goes on.

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The idea is that the algorithm feeds you match suggestions based on your trait preferences, rather than just randomly chucking profile photos at you.

Cuffing promises to give you “more chances to start real relationships with fascinating people nearby and put an end to lonely moments.” Or, at least, lets you seek out people with really long eyelashes.

Big news: Dating apps might try to make money from you

A conversation about dating apps’ business models has been bubbling over the last month or so after a group of six male plaintiffs in the US sued Match Group. They claimed the company’s apps use “predatory” techniques to encourage app addiction and to extract money from users (Match Group denies this).

In the lawsuit, filed in San Francisco on Valentine’s Day, the plaintiffs say Match Group’s methods gamify dating and encourage behavior comparable to gambling addiction. Match Group, which owns apps including Tinder, Hinge, and the League, called the claims “ridiculous”.

Ridiculous or not, the lawsuit has sparked a few opinion pieces including one by Georgina Lawton in The Guardian, writing about her own negative experiences with apps and seeing her friends become addicted to them.

Dating apps such as Hinge, with its “Designed to be deleted” slogan, are marketed as social facilitators for people looking for love. But would it be a reveal to potentially ‘expose’ them as trying to make as much money as possible from users, and encourage them to use an app as long as possible? Match Group, again, denies being “predatory” in its methods.

Next up… lawsuits against fast food burger joints for not actually being part of a healthy “balanced diet”? Oil companies that pump a few million into electric vehicle tech are exposed as not actually being in the game to save the planet?

Bindr aims to ditch dating labels (kind of)

Many dating apps are wheel-spinning to get up to date with modern gender norms (or lack of them), but Pittsburgh-based app Bindr is attempting to carve a niche by allowing labels to be ditched completely.

Launched in 2022, the company recently received funding through the startup accelerator organization AlphaLab Gear. Founder Mary Richardson said she launched the app after being banned from apps including Tinder, so became frustrated and wanted to launch an app based on bisexuality.

On Bindr you don’t have to put any sexuality label on your profile. You view other profiles on an Instagram-like ‘grid’ view rather than one single profile at a time and can post photos and other updates, with the idea being it becomes more akin to social media than a pure dating app.

Bindr bills itself as promoting label-free dating, but also as a “bisexual, lesbian, and LGBTQ” service, so there’s a bit of mixed messaging there. Still, who doesn’t like to have their cake and eat it?

“You weren’t polite”: New app gives straight-up date feedback

A new Boston-based dating app that will ban users who have too many bad ‘in real life’ dates is launching, claiming to be an “anti-dating app dating app”.

Lola encourages users to go on in-person dates rather than endlessly message online. To use it you have to say which upcoming days you could be free to meet for a date, then you can be set up with one of your matches to meet up at that time.

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After meeting for a date users can ‘review’ how it went, giving a score. If users clock up too many low scores, alongside reports of negative behavior, they can be booted from the app. Users who consistently give low scores to dates also risk being kicked off the app, in a measure that could potentially help negate bad faith low scoring.

After you’ve been on five dates you can see your ‘dating scorecard’, which features feedback from reviews of your dates.

Co-founder Rachel Cohen told “It might be like, ‘You wore too much fragrance.’ ‘You weren’t polite to the staff.’ ‘You’re on your phone too much.’ They’re very specific things to help people become better daters.”

First “neurodivergent-friendly” dating app launched

An app claiming to be the first dating app for people with autism and ADHD has launched in London.

Mattr bills itself as a “neurodivergent-friendly” app with functionality designed to be inclusive for people with conditions such as autism and ADHD, the latter of which the app’s founder Jamie Johnston has been diagnosed with. According to the Neurodiversity Foundation, around 32 percent of autistic adults have romantic partners and nine percent are married.

Mattr promo images

To help those who may struggle to send messages via typing, you can reply to messages in Mattr by sending a video instead. Matches on the app are limited to four per day: a move the app’s makers say can help with a “more meaningful” experience. Matches are made using an algorithm that seeks to present profiles to you based on your interests.

Johnston told The Standard: “People with autism and ADHD are most likely to ghost people, delete apps, ignore messages, avoid small talk and get to the point or be abrupt – it’s no wonder that dating apps are causing users to feel overwhelmed.”

He added: “We want people to connect without any fear of judgement and be their true selves. There are apps for every type of dating, from sobriety to religion to fetish, but none of them are actually talking about mental health.”

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Jamie F
Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice, among others. He is also the creative force behind the Audible podcast Beast Master.

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