On the face of it, and that’s a very apt phrase as you’ll see in a moment, online dating apps are a big success. Tinder, the app that made swiping a thing, has 50 million users of which 10 million are daily active users. Match Group, which includes Match.com, PlentyofFish and OkCupid among its family of products, had 6.6 million paying subscribers across all its matchmaking properties as of the third quarter of 2017.
Impressive perhaps but dig a little deeper and a telling truth reveals itself — making a successful coupling is about more than just a face, more than just surface appearances.
You don’t get much to help with decision-making in dating apps. There’s a face, an age and maybe an occupation and the city someone lives in. Even if there is information about a person’s interests, that alone is still unlikely to be enough to judge whether a match will be a lasting one.
Dating apps have a structural problem
As popular as they might be they are not very efficient. According to the 2013 Pew Internet Survey 54% of Americans think someone has misrepresented themselves on an online dating platform. In their survey three years later Pew found 45% of respondents agreed that online dating was more dangerous than other ways of meeting, and for women that figure rises to 54%, with 42% of female online daters experiencing harassment. Less than one in four eventually end up in a relationship.
Identity authentication and safety is not the end of the story as far as what we might call the online dating industry’s structural problems are concerned.
Maybe you’ve done this yourself and got an aching fingers from doing so — seemingly endless swiping through countless profiles to find your significant other. Sure, it keeps you occupied during your down-time and you may even get a peculiar pleasure from staring at the faces of countless other humans, but it is not a particularly good target acquisition method. Here’s another stat to illustrate the point: less than 2% of the messages sent by men on Match.com get an answer. That’s a disheartening experience.
There are attempts to solve this using algorithms but the jury is still out on that one. Let’s face it, the elements that converge in our minds to activate the “I’m attracted to that person” gene are complex and deeply subjective. That’s why it is so hard to get matching right, no matter how clever the software, or how accurately programmers design the tolerance settings for the algorithms. And maybe the algorithms are all wrong anyway, in a “garbage in, garbage out” kind of way.
Friends and colleagues know best
When you think about how human interaction works and how dating worked before we had the internet and smartphones, a solution starts to come into view.
The people who know us best, or at least have some real world familiarity with us, probably stand a better chance of ending our singleton existence. A friend fixing you up with a blind date or introducing you to one of their friends is often the most productive way of finding a mate. The secret to why these routes are more successful at delivering results is all to do with trust and familiarity.
There are a few people who have been thinking along these lines and have thought also how to scale up high-quality introductions — the team at Ponder app. Since October last year Ponder has had a product in the dating marketplace that has brought high-impact matchmaking into the internet age by homing in on the talents of mutual friends and others.
With 70,000 registered users and rising, the Ponder app is already off to a good start, but its much more than just another formulaic dating app. Ponder will leverage the unique decentralising properties of blockchain technology to quantify the value of trust and relationships.
Earn $1,000 when the lucky couple get hitched
Sign up for the app today and you can (virtually)meet people you know and people you don’t. Drag and drop the photos of users to match them up and the individuals involved will be instantly notified.
Assuming both parties like the idea of going on a date, they pay $10 each, with $10 sent to the matchmaker as their reward and the other $10 kept by Ponder. If the newly joined pair decide to turn date(s) into marriage, then the matchmaker picks up $1,000 as payment for their services.
The basic premise that’s been executed in the app is engineered without the aid of blockchain, but this is merely the first milestone of the Ponder roadmap.
The most efficient and secure approach to bringing two parties that don’t know each other together is through a decentralized system that verifies the individuals. In Ponder’s case, with the help of blockchain identity verification platform Civic, interactions are recorded and the quantified value of those relations is measured in Ponder Gold, the native token.
The app already has a currency, called Ponder Dollars, which users will be able to buy the tokens with. Each token gives the owner the right to, among other things, set up sub-groups (you must have 100 Gold coins) where members who have a particular affinity based on their values or interests can congregate.
The group works the same way as the basic level with the important exception that it takes five participants creating the same pairing before the match is broadcast to the individuals concerned. This time the coupled individuals pay 50 Ponder Gold coins each, with that sum then divided equally among the five matchmakers as their payment.
Realising the hidden value of relationships
What the Group Matchmaking sub-groups are doing is realising the social value hidden in the informal relationships that bind friends, acquaintances and contacts together to make quality introductions more likely to occur. If you have more in common you will by definition have a shared interest, which is a good place to start from on a first date when you want to get the conversation going, and keep it going.
Bear in mind too that none of that is to discount the possibility that opposites attract, because being a group member doesn’t preclude you from being unattached, to a group that is.
Ponder isn’t leaving it there. As good matchmakers will know, things have to be helped along when it comes to encouraging relationships.
Gamified matchmaking will be fun and fruitful
The project is using tips from the most successful app genre on smartphones: gaming. Ponder emphasizes how it wants to bring blockchain technology out from the relative shadows of the business-to-business realm and into the prime-time of consumer-facing products.
Gaming design elements and principles help to guide actions with carefully calibrated rewards and disincentives. Ponder isn’t looking to engage in mindless trickery. Instead if is focusing on scientifically evaluated encouragement through making the matchmaking search less like a chore and more like fun.
This hasn’t been done before and it’s showing great promise. Just ask King Entertainment how it‘s doing with Candy Crush, with its bright colors and exploding fruit and auditory delights pumping out sensory rewards as you close in on game-defined goals.
Ponder is bringing scientifically inspired sensory feedback to matchmaking so that online dating works better. It promises to be a revolution that the god of attraction, desire and love — Cupid could only have dreamed of.
To reach its goals, Ponder has the help of Chinese venture capital firm Plug and Play, one of the world’s largest startup accelerators, which is helping it to roll out Ponder China later this year.
As you may have expected, the token sale starts on 14 February — Valentine’s Day. These guys have thought this through.