Dating apps are betting that users are ready to swipe right on their new BFF.
Dating apps have already shown that they have the potential to disrupt how society finds love. But can they do the same for friendship? Hoping to cater to a generation of app-happy singles who have grown up comfortable with the idea of building friendships online through chat rooms and Reddit threads, a new wave of intrepid players wants to find out.
The newest entry to the market is Patook, which launched over the summer. “There were lots of dating apps on the market and lots of news about them in various outlets, but nothing really about friend-making apps,” founder Antoine Daher told GeekWire. “We ran a survey a year ago of about 2,000 random people to see how hard it was for them to make new friends once they hit adulthood. We were surprised to see that only one out of three people found it easy to make friends, and fewer than 20 percent of people found it easy to make new friends within five years of moving to a new city.”
Patook takes a high-tech approach to platonic matching: The app’s key feature is an algorithm based in artificial intelligence that detects when individuals are using the platform for flirting rather than friendship. The app also takes a “smart” approach to building friendships, matching users with others based on a weighted selection of traits they’ve ranked as important.
Patook joins a slew of other apps that have recently hit the market. Hey! Vina aims to connect and empower women through connection, landing somewhere between Tinder and LinkedIn. Wiith connects users to events based on common interests—like a Meetup on mobile. Squad is essentially the same as Tinder, but designed to allow groups of friends to match with each other.
Recently, established dating apps have also started eyeing the platonic market. After all, who better to run the Tinder of platonic dating than Tinder itself? In July, the company launched Tinder Social, a new mode for users to connect to their friends and then swipe with other groups. The app has also teased the possibility of other social-geared tools in the future.
Bumble, the feminist dating app that requires women to make the first move, also launched its “BFF” feature in May. Users can swipe right on individual profiles in either dating or friendship mode.
What’s behind this mission creep? While some app makers may genuinely be trying to fill a social need, others may see a gold mine in expanding their user base. According to Apptopia, Tinder pulled $3.4 million in the month of August alone. Although Bumble does not yet monetize its users, it plans to do so. While platonic swiping has yet to prove its enduring appeal, for now, it seems, the more the merrier.
“We have an incredible user base, and so many of them were using this app to find friends,” Whitney Wolfe, the ex-Tinder executive who founded Bumble, told CBS News. “And they’ve been requesting a feature for—’Hey, I’m in a relationship, but I love Bumble. I still want to be able to use it.’”
Moving forward, the interplay between technology and friendship will likely continue to evolve. Even if the “Tinder for friendship” doesn’t strike a chord among users, it’s unlikely to be the last time technology tries disrupting human connection.