Technology :: Personal Tech

Grindr’s Founder on Politics, Safe Sex & Allowing Users to Specify a Type

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Nov 23, 2012
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Whatever your personal feelings about it, there is no denying Grindr’s influence on the gay community. Ever since the app made its debut nearly four years ago it has tremendously impacted how gay men interact with each other. It’s made it easier than ever for guys to find whatever it is they are looking for, whether it be friends, dates, a quick chat or (most likely) a quickie.

Grindr’s signature yellow grid that displays the nearest men who are on the prowl has made it, as it states on Grindr’s website, "the world’s biggest mobile network of guys." Grindr uses your smart phone’s location-based service to show you the guys closest to you who are also on the app.

According to the company, 4.5 million men in 192 countries have downloaded the app, with nearly 1 million guys signed on at any given time. In a recent interview, Grindr’s founder and chief executive officer Joel Simkhai told EDGE that he is rebuilding the app to accommodate such phenomenal growth and to ensure speed, stability and responsiveness. He promised that the new, improved Grindr would not only be faster but "a lot more fun."

The look and the way it is used will also change, he added. "We are adding communities and filters," Simkhai said. "Now, you can see everyone around you and you can only filter based on age. With new Grindr, you will be allowed to filter users based on ethnicity, body type, height, weight, relationship status and lots of other things."

Allowing Users to Specify the Type of Man
Simkhai said users will be able to search for guys based on one of 12 "communities," including HIV status.

"There are lots of different types of gay men," he said. "There are bears, there are daddies, there are twinks. There are all these sub-communities within our gay community. So we’re going to allow you to select yourself of one of 12 communities, including HIV positive," he continued. "The idea is if you’re looking to meet someone who is HIV positive, you can now do that and search for that person. We are very excited for that and it’s going to make a big, big difference."

Grindr certainly has its critics. Simkhai expects it to be no different when he rolls out the new version. "We are filtering out the community. We are segmenting half the community, even more," he gleefully admitted. "There’s pros and cons to it, unfortunately," he said. "It’s what our users want."

He said he’s only responding to users, who want to meet specific types of guys. "That’s real life," he said. "There are specific types of bars. There’s Latin night, bear night, Asian night, bars that are skewed older, bars that are skewed hipster, bars that are skewed twink. Do I like it? I don’t know how I feel about it but it’s natural and it’s what our users want."

"I very much like the idea that Grindr just shows you everyone around you," he said. "But what we found is that people block a lot. Blocking is one of the most popular features on Grindr. They’re just not interested in meeting them so it’s telling me that they are being selective and choosing. So when the criticism comes that I’m segmenting the community, I’ll probably have to agree with it."

Nor is Simkhai worried that the new features will close guys off from meeting new people or going outside of their comfort zone: "You are lowering your chances of randomly meeting someone. I can’t control that though. I just know what my users want and its my job to give that to them," he said.

Next: Controversy About Race



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