Porting online dating to mobile devices has brought big changes to how such services work. Websites tend to expend a lot of effort on providing the best potential matches, based on things like common interests and similar desires. Many apps, on the other hand, tend to be more about speed and immediacy. Some of the most popular apps are geared toward finding and meeting people as quickly as possible, often based on not much more than photographs. That's true even of apps that don't explicitly emphasize "hookups." What follows are some of the most popular, or at least currently buzzworthy, mainstream-oriented dating apps.
Tinder certainly can be, and is, used for "hooking up." It ties to users' Facebook (fb) accounts and presents pictures, name, age, and sexual orientation -- and that's it. Users swipe through these minimalist "profiles" and indicate interest. Mutual interest then leads to a chat, and, perhaps, an immediate meeting. Financed by IAC/InterActiveCorp (iaci) (which also owns the super-mainstream Match.com) this fast-growing dating app is trying in various ways to evolve past its image as a hookup-enabler.
Along with PlentyOfFish, OKCupid began life as one of the first widely used free dating sites on the web. By all accounts, it's succeeding with its relatively new app as well. Users answer dozens or hundreds of questions, the answers to which are run through OKCupid's algorithms to produce potential matches.
This app bucks the speed-and-efficiency trend and tries to put some of the humanness back into online dating. Indeed, it refers to its mission as enabling "offline" dating. Users upload the usual biographical stuff, as well as an idea for an actual date, which is what the service emphasizes. This year, it addressed a problem all dating sites and apps face -- the ultimate goal of members is to leave the site -- by adding "HowAboutWe for Couples," which offers matched-up pairs various date plans, for which the company handles all the arrangements.
Not to be confused with the vastly more popular OKCupid, Cupid.com became known to millions last week when it successfully manipulated the media into publicizing a survey supposedly showing that the Southern drawl is the country's "sexiest" accent. It's not yet known how many new users this move has attracted to the app or website, but it surely didn't hurt.
As the name implies, Grouper is for group dates. For $20, the app sets up a meeting for one person and his or her two "wingmen" to meet a someone else and his or her two friends. The idea is to remove the need for that first, awkward one-on-one meeting, though some might feel that meeting someone for the first time in front of an audience might only be more awkward. Grouper buys the group its first round of drinks, and the rest is up to them.
Zoosk got lots of attention a couple of years ago when the dating app integrated with Facebook, and it remains perhaps the most social-networking-like service of the bunch. It uses "social graphing," similar to that employed by Facebook, so users can search for people with similar interests.