Reviewing the current state of the blockchain dating apps, I couldn’t help but giggle at the combined unilateral lack of imagination of the numerous platform founders and their businesses, which edged out by the competition of larger players with superior products such as Tinder, OKC, Bumble and the likes, have reached so close to the point of extinction that running an ICO and collectively bringing in the “Blockchain — Online Dating’s White Knight” narrative is seen as the last chance of reviving them. Now as much as I have appreciation for perseverance and hustle, I would always be more impressed by courage and innovation. And when I say courage I don’t mean the audacity to ask $12 mln for a product that just a few years ago Start-up accelerators would likely have refused to give you $20k for. And when I say innovation I don’t mean painting the app icon of your old software yellow and calling it brand new 24k digital gold. Rant aside, let’s look at the most popular “improvements” that dating companies running on blockchain claim to bring to the industry in their individual details:
- Identity verification — surely, one of the biggest concerns for people that look for partners online is whether the other side is real. Catfishing and various sorts of love scams have left many broken hearts and false hopes. Therefore, a reliable identity verification process would only improve the reputation of the platform, similar to how online digital asset exchanges require KYC verification from their customers, before releasing full functionality to their products. There is just one tiny problem though. You don’t need blockchain, in order to implement KYC. Most exchanges are (still centralized) and they have it. There’s plenty of 3rd party companies (NetVerify anyone?) that already offer a secure and reliable service and a few that already work on specialized decentralized/distributed solution such as KYC-Chain, Enigma or else. Building a dating app and claiming that your advantage would be identity verification is like saying the competitive advantage of a car manufacturer is the alarms they put in their cars.
- Data privacy without compromising security — Sure, it would be better if any of the data/personal documents is stored in encrypted format in distributed databases and this also seems to be the way the world is going as more and more companies are integrating blockchains into their life cycles. However, this is just an overall argument in favor of the adoption of blockchain technologies, not really a unique advantage of decentralized dating apps. If any of the existing providers decided to migrate from their cloud/dedicated servers to a BaaS (Blockchain-as-a-Service) or develop their own distributed ledger, then this competitive advantage becomes fully obsolete as well. Moreover, a dating company building it’s own blockchain again just seems an unnecessary effort, if the only benefit would be the data privacy, rather than a real case where tokenomics makes sense and leads to added value, cutting out intermediaries and bringing in new efficiencies.
- Human MatchMakers — the main key feature that apps like Viola, Hicky, Ponder and the other me-toos that have or will inevitably pop-up is the (brace yourselves) glorified role of…human matchmaking. Yes, that’s right! Screw data and the complicated algorithms of Tinder, OKC or other companies — we at the blockchain dating business understand that there is nothing more valuable than a complete stranger, who doesn’t know jack s*it about either of the parties to try and grab a bounty for making them “match” online. Ohh how I’m actually looking forward to it! There are several ways in which I can see this becoming a legitimate cash cow of internet money, but sarcasm, joke and evil laughter aside, I honestly don’t see how this is an improvement. Unless I’m missing something:
- 1. If you don’t know either of the people AND have no access to any of their data, apart from the pictures and public profiles, you are in no better position to assess their matching abilities than a newborn pomeranian.
- 2. However let’s say that you do know at least one of the parties. Or alternatively, that you are the one looking for a partner on the website. Am I the only one who thinks it’s kinda embarrassing to have a Facebook friend recommend you a random guy/girl, in a sort of “there there, you deserve to be happy” manner? Within local communities where the matchmaker actually personally knows BOTH parties well enough, there is a very slim chance this would work out. But It seems obvious to me that this would be an exceptional scenario and not the rule. Even then, the apps are suggesting that humans motivated by various small amounts of money would find better matches for strangers or acquaintances than algorithms, relying on data points such as interests, activity, proximity and anything else that digital businesses have managed to harvest from their customers or partners. This is a logic that escapes me completely.
- Marriage/Relationship certificates on Blockchain — which is an obvious plus, because everyone out there wants to share their relationship status on an ever-growing immutable ledger. If this was a government service, designed for record-keeping of actual marriages/civil unions, I would probably applaud it as forward thinking and novel. Being offered by a dating company (which, by definition HATE relationships, as they are bad for business — taken people rarely browse dating apps, unless they are specifically for…taken people, you know) I can only see this being useful for stalkers and attention-whores. The same reason why people massively shifted away from sharing that level of detail on social media, where unlike on blockchain however, you DO have the option to delete past events from your history.
Unfortunately, almost all of the projects in the sector that I have reviewed have pointed out the same elements above as “advantages”. This surely isn’t what disruptive technology looks like and definitely not a compelling reasons for users to ditch established dating platforms for. And it’s not that I have something against any of these companies, I just hate to see the technological potential go to waste for products that will not only be far from an order of a magnitude better than the existing ones, but might actually take steps back from what is already available.
On the bright side, there is an Irish start-up named Luna, which offers a few more exciting features in their product, such as real-world meetup proof verification, user ratings system, message auction bidding and noise-narrowing elements such as an inbox queue, which all actually seem to benefit from the use of blockchain and smart contracts, rather than justify its existence through them. They are also utilizing an existing blockchain & smart contracts platform (QTUM), which also suggests that the founders have an understanding about the economies and efficiencies that the technology provides. This doesn’t go to say that the product will be usesful, attract audience or end up being successful, but at least it’s a step towards getting something different rather than more of the same.
The more important question I cannot stop myself from asking though — is anybody serious dedicated to building a proper VR dating app and bringing online dating to the next level?
P.S: just to confirm, I’m in no way affiliated with Luna or any of the projects above (nor with any existing online dating companies) and have not invested in any of their token offerings, as of the time of writing this article.
P.S2: originally posted by the author at https://medium.com/@CasanovaBG/