Digital Life

From Grindr Team, A Meet-'N'-Greet App For The Rest

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Grindr, a gay-targeted social-networking application for mobile devices, has become a kind of alternative to Facebook for some gay men.

Grindr, a gay-targeted social-networking application for mobile devices, has become a kind of alternative to Facebook for some gay men. Grindr hide caption

toggle caption Grindr

If you're looking for a gay man, you can download a kind of gaydar at the app store. With a reported 2.5 million users worldwide, Grindr is the go-to location-aware social-networking app — read "hook-up channel" — for a certain set.

It's a simple proposition, says creator Joel Simkhai. Using a built-in GPS on your smartphone or tablet, Grindr "shows you profiles of other users — guys who are often within walking distance of you."

It tells you how far the nearest person with the app is, down to a few feet away. You can use Grindr to chat with them, or share photos.

"We're big believers in bringing down some of the barriers out there and meeting the people that are right next to you," Simkhai says. "That's what Grindr is all about."

And barriers do fall.

"So, with Person A you can talk about the latest and greatest news, what's happening," says Chris Lewis, who was walking down Santa Monica Boulevard one recent West Hollywood afternoon, with the Grindr app fired up on his phone.

"With this person over here you can talk about what you're going to be doing over the weekend. This person over here is trying to get at you, so you can be sexting that person, all at the same time."

You can't avoid Grindr in the gay community, says Kevin Held, who wasn't far away that same day.

Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO of Grindr, describes the new Blendr app as "the ultimate social compass." i

Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO of Grindr, describes the new Blendr app as "the ultimate social compass." Blendr hide caption

toggle caption Blendr
Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO of Grindr, describes the new Blendr app as "the ultimate social compass."

Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO of Grindr, describes the new Blendr app as "the ultimate social compass."

Blendr

"If you log on in this area, you'll see about 200 people within a mile of you."

Now the founders of Grindr want to tap into the straight hookup culture, with a new app called Blendr. Simkhai demonstrates, calling up the profile of a woman who's just a few dozen feet away.

"She's from Arizona, talks about her high school, her college, where she works," he says. "And then, if you like, you can chat with her."

This particular woman was a Buddhist. And a fan of disco.

Those interests are essentially what make Blendr different from Grindr: You can filter results based on the interests other users have indicated. So you can find someone near you who's interested in, say, knitting. Or in your college football team. Or simply in hooking up.

Not appealing, says Melissa Wyatt, who was out on the town in West Hollywood. She says all her gay male friends use Grindr, but Blendr isn't for her.

Blendr, available for iOS devices and as a Facebook app, hopes to attract a new set of users interested in meeting like-minded people nearby. i

Blendr, available for iOS devices and as a Facebook app, hopes to attract a new set of users interested in meeting like-minded people nearby. Blendr hide caption

toggle caption Blendr
Blendr, available for iOS devices and as a Facebook app, hopes to attract a new set of users interested in meeting like-minded people nearby.

Blendr, available for iOS devices and as a Facebook app, hopes to attract a new set of users interested in meeting like-minded people nearby.

Blendr

"I'd rather meet someone I actually know that comes with references," she says. "And Grindr is all about, 'I'm going to pretend to be this, this and this.' "

Blendr, in short, may have some convincing to do. John Coopersmith, who studies the history of technology at Texas A&M University, says Blendr's target audience may be more concerned about safety — and respectability — than Grindr's.

"How many people in the mainstream are going to want something that public?" he asks. "Is this something you want your parents, or your kids, or your workmates to know that you're using?"

Bottom line, Coopersmith says: "Grindr is essentially a pick-up service," and part of what makes it so popular is that it helps gay men find more people who are interested in them.

For women, Coopersmith points out, the problem is often not too little attention — but too much.

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