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Smartphone app gives users new way to meet

Developed for gay men, Grindr hopes to expand to include everyone

By James Bright
On September 1, 2010

Nowadays people meeting organically has all but faded to black. There are more and more social networking sites popping up every day. Some are used for romance. Others are not.

With the advent of smart phones, some of these sites have created applications. One such site is Grindr, an application for the iPhone, which allows homosexual men to meet other men in the area by using the GPS system in the phone. With the application of the GPS, patrons can locate gay men as close as five feet from where they are standing.

Founder and CEO of Grindr Joel Simkhai said he created the website because of frustration with other dating sites on the market.

"I didn't understand why location isn't a higher priority," he said. "You can search based on zip code, but what about the guy in the same room, building or across the street?"

Since its inception, Grindr has grown to become the largest all-male mobile location based networking tool in the world, with users numbering more than 900,000, and is utilized in 162 countries.

Simkhai attributed the growth of the site to a multitude of things, but said word-of-mouth and Grindr parties were two of the most beneficial tools.

Grindr parties are events held in clubs or other social settings where gay men who have the application can come together in close proximity with other men who use the application.

"I think the application succeeds because of the basic human instinct to want to know who else is around you," he said. "Everyone wants to experience what that's like and Grindr provides that experience."

Simkhai said the parties reinforce the Grindr experience.

"People like to see the Grindr brand out in public," he said.

Due to the success of the parties and the application itself, Simkhai said several parties will be held all over the world next month as the site reaches one million members.

The popularity of Grindr has attracted the attention of clientele outside the gay community. Simkhai said several lesbians and straight people, who have seen their friends using Grindr, have contacted him about creating a site for them. Simkhai said this request is one he hopes he can meet.

"Our goal is to be able to provide the Grindr service to everyone – men, women, straight, gay and anyone in the world," he said. "Everyone wonders ‘who and what are around me?' This basic universal question is the driving force behind our innovations."

Grindr's approach is a simple one according to Simkhai.

"The desire to connect with people around you is universal," he said.

The site is not just used by romantics. Rob Norfolk said on Grindr's website that he was able to meet a whole new group of friends and even find a new job through the site after a tumultuous break up.

"I made a great life long buddy because of Grindr," he said.

Simkhai said he does not specify what the site can be used for.

"We just provide the service and let people use it as they wish," he said. "It's up to the user to decide how far they want to go with it."

Security issues are an area of concern with the site, but Simkhai said Grindr has made efforts to create a secure application.

"As with any online services, we encourage our users to be smart and use common sense when chatting with new people," he said.

Grindr offers two features to allow users to manage their privacy. Users can hide their distance and block other users from seeing them if unwanted attention is being given. Simkhai said he also encourages his patrons to view safety tips at the applications website.

At first Simkhai said the technology was not available to solve his problem. That was until Apple released the second-generation iPhone in June 2008.

"Three major changes were announced," Simkhai said. "One was GPS, another was the App store, and last was the iPhone SDK, which is the software to write these apps in an easy way. These three innovations allowed us to create Grindr."

President for the Association for the Needs of Gay and Lesbian Students Steven Martin said he can see how Grindr will make it easier to find people.

"I prefer to meet people the old-fashioned way, but I think it's fine for those who don't," he said.

People should use the application at their own peril according to Martin, but he does not judge those who use it in any way.

Simkhai said the application plans to cross platforms and release Grindr for the Blackberry, which is in the final stages of beta testing. Those who want information on the switch or anything else about Grindr can visit Grindr.com.


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