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Appy ever after - Apps versus traditional online dating

Wednesday June 12, 2013

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I hold a particular distrust for online dating. It's not that I think it's a bad idea, it's just that the way most sites are constructed mean you're unlikely to avoid a plethora of spam messages, fake profiles and bots trawling the site collecting your email address so they can helpfully offer you sex enhancement pills, PPI claims and the occasional Nigerian money laundering opportunity.

There are some notable exceptions but on the whole, online dating is attached to an old fashioned approach to the internet that would leave the Netscape Navigator browser looking decidedly bleeding edge.

Some have suggested my regular dismissive missives of the medium are based on a speed dating bias. It's true that I definitely feel speed dating is a far better, more enjoyable and fun way to meet people. But this is a no brainer. What is a better way to meet people? To spend weeks online perhaps arranging a meeting with someone who may or may not be who they claim. Or to actually um... meet them. You do the maths.

It's not all bad though. There have been particular strides in app development. The beauty of the new generation of dating apps is that many don't pretend to offer something they can't necessarily provide.

Take for example apps like Tinder. They check other users in your general location, offer a picture and some basic information and allow you to tick yes or no (or in some cases literally 'Bang, Date or Like' – I kid you not). You can flick through literally hundreds of profiles in a couple of minutes. There are options to provide and read more profile information but research so far suggests that hardly anyone is doing so.

Sure, you may send or receive a message or two, but the beauty of these apps is that they do exactly what they say on the tin. They're about having a quick, fun perve at who's around with no real expectation of a date. They're the product of an app generation that needs a quick phone based fix rather than a more reality based corollary.

But what if you really do want to meet someone? Contrary to my usual denigration of traditional dating sites, it is from this sector that dating app development is slowly showing signs of improvement. Many traditional online dating sites have a corresponding app and if you've not used them because you feel it's unnecessary due to your membership of the main site you may want to think again. Many of the site apps I've researched recently have far greater functionality than their standard forebears, and some even provide free users access to features usually only provided  to those who upgrade.

I understand that app development is king right now but I'm not sure why main sites don't incorporate such features. Unless my constant assertion that the online dating industry is in crisis is correct, and I genuinely hope it's not, it can't be a question of money or resources. Perhaps it's part of a greater conspiracy to push us to a tablet and phone dominated world (as if that's not already happening).

Either way, you'd do well to try your usual site's app. You may be pleasantly surprised.

WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS