Recently, there was much ado about an Apple patent that was filed, where it would allow users to locate people near them, and browse a small profile. In a personal discussion, some friends and I agreed that it wasn’t that likely that Apple would ever actually make something like this, but here they were patenting it just the same. I thought to myself, “this seems like something OKCupid would do.” Lo and behold, that’s exactly what they’ve done!
OKCupid first came onto my radar because of their excellent blog, OKTrends, where they occasionally perform statistical analysis of the people using their site. Everything from what you should send in your first message through what types of photos tend to get the best ratings is covered. They recently wrote an article called, “What if there weren’t so many white people?”
A friend tried to show me her profile, but since it was private to OKC users only, I ended up making one myself. The site is so well designed that it gently pushes you along to fill out your profile and answer match questions, all the while rewarding you by moving a bar from left to right labeled “Profile Completion”. Needless to say, my profile is now complete. Damn you, gamification!
After briefly poking around on the site, I decided to start using it in earnest about two months ago. Being a guy on an online-dating site, especially a free one like OKCupid, is not a breeze. In order to actually make it work, I uploaded more photos, took quizzes, and most importantly, started messaging at least two women every time I went on the site. I was pleasantly surprised when I started getting messages back on a regular basis–and became quickly addicted.
In what felt like no time flat, I was checking the site on my iPad whenever I was online, hoping to see the wonderful pink envelope notification that says I have a new message. Or checking my GMail to see if I had a notification there. And finally, the last piece fell into place when I downloaded their (free) iPhone app. “OKCupid would like to send you push notifications: OK/Cancel?” OK. I’m in this to win it. Now, I know within a minute when someone sends me a message. I can see their profile, see if they’re online, check how compatible we (theoretically) are, and reply from my phone if I so choose. I remembered a friend telling me, months before, “Have you tried out the iPhone app? It’s crazy, definitely try it.” I could see why.
And now, there’s the matter of geo-location. Use your GPS and 3G data connection to broadcast where you are and suggest an instant date to anyone who’s listening. Furthermore, search around you for users who are /nearby right now/ and send them a message. I know what the initial reaction will probably be from most people: “Creepy! Why would I ever do that?” But my reaction was just the opposite: “When can I have it?”
If you’re already playing around with online dating, this is just the next (logical?) step. You’re already looking for friendship/short-term dating/long-term dating/activity partners/casual sex, and now you can look around you. With your phone. Without having to actually talk to people.
I expect this new app will be a big win for OKCupid and its users. I’m not sure how much more people will actually meet up with it, but stranger things have happened. If you have any doubt that this is a solid play, look no further than the app Grindr, which should be well known by any gay man in a major city. The app offers you the option to “find men” around you, and returns the 100 closest users at any given time. It’s so successful that the company is planning to release a “straight” version of the app with more focus on meeting up for friendship… or whatever. They don’t care how you use it, just that you use it. And now OKCupid is here, beating them to the punch in some ways.
I checked my phone earlier today, and didn’t see a new version available for download. OKCupid says they’re ‘beta testing’ the new features before they go live. I’ll definitely be downloading it, and seeing who is nearby when I have it. Will you?
And also, bets on how long until Apple starts suing?