The makers of Grindr figured their app, which helps gay men find nearby gay men, using their iPhones to chat, swap photos, and meet-up, was so successful, they would extend the service to straight people, too. Today the world welcomes Blendr, Grindr for straights. The app targeted at gay men has over 2.6 million users in 192 countries, so an extension into the straight world seemed logical. And often that logic works. Gays can will trends into existence. Think: Bravo, hip urban neighborhoods, and some might even argue Lady Gaga. But sometimes, there are things the straight community will never latch on to, and efforts at extending a phenomenon fall flat. (Circuit parties, anyone?) It looks like Grindr might fall into the later category.
Grindr's popularity has a lot to do with the way people use it. Blendr has a different, and frankly, useless, purpose. Unlike Grindr, which Gawker's Adrian Chen explains "is a sex buffet--Yelp for penises," Blendr has a squarer mission: It facilitates friendships, app creator Simkhai Joel Shimkai explains to the Daily Beast's Itay Hod. "The straight version is not a dating site but a way to make connections. 'Facebook does a great job keeping you connected with people you already know,' says Simkhai, 'but how do you meet new people? How do you make new friendships?'" Nobody uses apps to make friends. As Simkhai admits, there are already online platforms for friend-making, like Facebook.
And people are never going to use frienship-finding apps. Mostly because they're boring. The suggested uses of the app by Simkhai to The Wall Street Journal include women meeting to practice French or a "a 60-year-old guy trying to find a guy to play poker with." Riveting. It's more like "an electronic knitting circle you can keep in your pocket" continues Chen. Too wholesome, and way too boring. Millions of people, gay and straight alike, log on to Grindr for its sexiness. You might not meet up with someone to hook up, but you can chat with that intent or look at shirtless hunks. Even straight people like the app for its steamy content, argues Double X's Bryan Lowder. "According to [straight girl] Sarah, Grindr is just fun (or funny), an odd little window onto the fantastic cornucopia of sexual self-expression that is the gay community." Sarah's not going to want a little window into Pop-Pop's chess league.
Of course, the app could turn into something saucier--a dating-based app more akin to Grindr--but that wouldn't work either. First of all, those already exist for heteros. As WSJ points out, OK Cupid just launched "OK Cupid Locals," a similar service earlier this year. And for the subset of non-gay users looking for a Grindr-esque experience, the vanilla treatment will push them away, argues Chen. "It's still going to totally alienate the impulsive, horny straight people, which we hear do exist outside of reality TV, and who realistically will be the only ones who might find a use for what amounts to a GPS-coordinated flesh finder."
Grindr took off because it appealed to a subset of people with commonalities. Blendr tries to create an app for a larger, even more diverse community and address a lack of overlap by making the mission overly broad: friendship. But in doing so, it renders the app useless.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.