Gay dating apps are going through a period of change and growth. Here’s what’s coming down the pike.
As a gay man, you’ve likely tapped onto one of the many gay dating apps available on the marketplace. While hard to place a number on it, research suggests well over 50% of MSM are now using smart-phone based apps for various kinds of connections.
In fact, a somewhat recent study suggests that 70% of gay men report finding long term love on app based programs.
Because many of our readers have shared with us they’ve used apps for dating, hooking up and more, we decided to explore some of the latest trends in this area.
GPB caught up with Sean Howell, President of Hornet; a popular mobile based gay social app that boasts over 18 million users worldwide.
Oh, and did you notice? The words are changing too. You see “gay hook up apps” and “dating apps” have now morphed into gay social apps.
Ready to learn more? Let’s jump right in!
Industry-wide, it’s become less about the apps themselves, and more a definitive change in user behavior; people are using them for more than one purpose.
Occasionally people still think about online dating in very web 2.0 mindsets–you go online answer some questions and people search for your profile.
Related: What turns gay men off on the apps?
Then, after hours of research and a match, you go on, essentially, a blind date. Even looking at other apps, which you might call competitors that fall into hookup categories; what happens there is much broader than just dating or hooking up.
People surely can be looking to hookup, but more times than not they are looking for friends. And even if people are looking to hookup, they still want a back story, a little romance.
This is why we focused on building an app that helps users describe themselves, to follow interests they like, and to keep in touch with people who have similar interests.
When I’m online, I meet new people, have people with similar interests follow my profile, and chat. This also leads to discovering interesting places and events. Even if an app is purely for dating, people find ways to use it to make friends, to do business, or just to talk.
We built Hornet to make all of this easier and a far more pleasant user experience because we’d argue that’s exactly what gay men are doing online all the time, making new friends.
Q: Do you have a sense of how many MSM are currently using apps to meet new people?
The entire ecosystem online is currently over 40 million for gay men, and should grow north of 140M.
Q: If you had to pick a major stereotype about dating apps, what would it be and why?
They’re fast. When I say they’re fast, I mean it as a positive stereotype. You can go online in Hornet, make a profile, and start talking to gay men in your neighborhood you find interesting in less than two minutes.
There is huge utility for gay people in having a way to meet other people, no matter where they are. It is really easy for straight people to see someone of the opposite sex out in public.
It’s always been more difficult for LGBTs to identify what’s commonly known as “family.” There are a lot of amazing people out there you can find online when you move to a new place, when traveling or even in your own city. I made my four closest friends this way.
The Rosenfeld study out of Stanford is a fascinating look at how couples are meeting.
Q: How does social media integration, like Facebook, change the dynamic of app based dating?
Social integrations are a low bar for trying to improve authenticity. That’s where we differ. Our support team is incredibly detailed and efficient, and made up of all gay men.
On the rare occasion we see anything on the app that looks dubious, we have this smart, gay support team that goes into action.
More so, our community cares about making safe spaces online and also works to self-moderate. We’re extremely proud of how we’ve accomplished this and that users feel like they meet real people and connect on Hornet.
Q: What about privacy concerns? Is there a way to protect your social media account from being seen by others?
There could be some apps you don’t want to be seen on, but that isn’t our mission. We want even bfs in monogamous relationships comfortable online with their profile up for platonic and friendship purposes.
This isn’t something you have to be embarrassed about. It’s cool to be online and, frankly, most people are online.
Our users often want to try and grow their followers, much like users on Instagram. We do lots of things to help people feel safe, not just from internet security perspective, but by cultivating a welcoming community.
About 95% of our profiles have face pictures, which goes a long way. We still know, especially as a gay person, that sometimes it takes a while for someone to feel comfortable being themselves, so we do have options for folks who want to stay private.
Q: How is Hornet App ahead of the curve with integrating social media and dating apps?
You see a lot of apps trying to shove the success of other networks into their apps. Tinder did this with Instagram and Spotify. Hornet has its own social feed, allows users to upload unlimited photos and we promote users sharing interests.
You can find folks who are gay tennis players, jocks, mountaineers, gaymers, foodies, etc. just by clicking on the interest or by searching for keywords and hashtags, even usernames. No other gay app does this.
Q: What trends do you see happening in the future with gay dating/hookup apps?
When media call an app like Hornet a dating app or hookup app, I think what a myopically straight way to look at the world. Gay men are different. When gay men move to a new city or end a serious relationship, they go online, to do what? Date? Sure, but a lot more.
We make friends online, and if we have a great date that lasts three days but then fizzles out that person might still become our best friend. You often don’t see this in straight world; if a couple of dates doesn’t lead to nirvana often folks never talk again.
I think what I am describing for gay men, this meeting for dates and becoming friends, is something so many men relate to. We made our app to help people do this more and have a healthier way of connecting to foster this.
Let’s do something un-straight and call Hornet what it is, the gay social network.
Q: Do you see a day where holographic imagery might be used?
Definitely. Social apps have become an extension of ourselves and they’ll continue to evolve as technology on our mobile devices evolve. The best thing about living today is the speed at which technology improves. I mentioned that I fully support the fast nature of social apps.
When I was a young, gay nerd dialing up a BBS on a modem, did I ever think something as powerful as Hornet would exist and I could carry it with me anywhere? If I fly tomorrow to Istanbul or Paris, I can go online and find great guys.
We’ve seen a lot of online communities grow and make it easier to keep in touch and discover new people and places. What we do online will just keep getting better.
Editor’s Note: We would like to thank Mr. Howell for his time in conducing this interview. FYI: GPB is not owned by Hornet or any other web based form of technology.