love and war

Can “Niche” Dating Apps Save Us?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut

These days, there are dating apps for just about everything you can imagine: from specific religions, ethnicities, and political beliefs to various lifestyles and hobbies. You can find a dating app for vegans, one for rock climbers, and even one for professional clowns.

But these apps face a particular challenge. They have to find enough users and build a strong enough community to survive. And they have to do that in the face of Tinder owner Match Group, which has its own growing portfolio of narrowly focused apps, too.

The most successful niche dating app outside of the Match Group umbrella is Grindr, a publicly traded company with 11 million monthly active users. AJ Balance, Grindr’s chief product officer, says the app has thrived “because it was focused on a user segment of gay men for a real-time, location-based use case — you know, casual-dating hookups.”

Episode five of Land of the Giants: Dating Games explores Grindr and other dating apps outside the mainstream and asks whether they live up to their promise of connecting like-minded people. We also consider what it takes for these businesses to be successful and take a close look at some of the apps poised to be the next Grindr.

One of these apps is Feeld, a dating service for people looking for nontraditional experiences and relationships. Users go to Feeld for threesomes, casual sex, polyamory, and more, and the app positions itself as an alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach taken by mainstream apps like Tinder and Hinge. “I think the future of dating will start looking less and less like an endgame,” says Feeld CEO Ana Kirova. “I think it still feels like an endgame, like something that should stop at some point.”

Listen to the latest episode of Land of the Giants: Dating Games, a co-production between the Cut, The Verge, and the Vox Media Podcast Network. You can catch new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Can “Niche” Dating Apps Save Us?