The future of Grinding is more than just hookups and flirty texting, its creator told Queerty in an interview this week. These days, Joel Simkhai is looking at expanding his social app in directions that include community, events, matchmaking, and even — get this — women. The very idea!
“Our goal is to increase the number of people you’re meeting. That’s what Grindr is for us,” Joel explains. For him, Grindr is meant to be a means to an end, rather than just hanging out online for online’s sake. “We hope it’s a complement to real life socializing,” he said. “It’s one of the options you have for meeting people around you. We always encourage people to not rely on it, and not have it replace real life.”
The strength of Grindr, Joel says, is that is brings guys closer together — and not necessarily in a rubby-humpy sort of way. But in order to make that happen, he’ll need to have more homos on his platform than anyone else. To that end, he’s currently testing a Blackberry version. Once released, it’ll dramatically expand the user base. (To guys who Grind on their employer-issued phones, amirite?)
“We’re also quite interested in additional features,” Joel says, but then he gets all vague about it. What new features? And when? At first, he was reluctant to go into details aside from, “we’re planning a major release in the near future,” meaning somewhere between weeks and months.
But our conversation kept coming back to Grindr’s potential for bringing users together in physical locations. In the future, he said, Grindr might give you information about what’s going on around you, recommending interesting places in your vicinity. “We’re still working on the implementation,” he says. “With events and venues … it’s not specifically the place that I’m so interested in, but I’m interested in the congregation of people there. Grindr is about your immediate surroundings. We show you the guys around you. well, there’s a lot around you. An ATM is not so interesting … but if there’s a new party or a new performance, that impacts socialization.”
This isn’t exactly virgin territory for Grindr. The company’s been testing the meatspace waters by throwing hundreds of parties, all over the world. “We know that our guys are interested in going out,” says Joel with confidence.
But what about everyone else? For example, ladies. Or the guys who, for whatever reason, would rather touch women than each other. Rumors about a Grindr for lesbians or breeders have been smoldering for a long time, and Joel fanned the flames. “We see a lot of demand from non-gays,” notes Joel. “I think that’s interesting because what we’ve done with Grindr is shown the rest of the world that there’s a new way, and a better way, to socialize.”
Of course, straight people have no shortage of dating tools, and a much wider pool than gays. Grindr will need to refine its tool set in order to appeal to straights, not to mention to stay ahead of competing gay geolocators like Jack’d and Boy Ahoy. “Something we’re working on is letting you become more choosy,” adds Joel. “For me, the most important thing is to have you meet people who are similar to you, who have similar interests.” So, for example, no more awkwardness and frustration between users who are looking for sexytime and users who are monogamous gays just looking for friends.
And speaking of sexytime, we asked Joel if he sees the Grindr environment as an opportunity to present messages about safer sex. For example, San Francisco’s Department of Health recently released an app called “STD411″ that connects users to nearby clinics, and illustrates how risky various sex acts are for transmitting various diseases. Another recently-released app, iCondom, shows you how close you are to the nearest condom dispenser. Would Joel consider integrating that kind of education into his app?
Well, maybe. He is noncommittal. “I’d have to look at it,” he says. “You won’t see us advocating too much. We’ll do a little advocacy, but not too much. … We tend not to get too involved.” He adds: “We’ve got adults here, and adults like to be treated like adults. You can’t talk down to them.”
He was similarly nonchalant when we asked how closely he monitors his competitors.
“I don’t spend too much time looking at them,” he said. “We’re obviously aware of them. We remain the largest. I don’t know their daily users, but I suspect we have more users on a daily basis than they have total users. … I think the most important thing for the user is the size of the network. … It’s like eBay. it doesn’t make sense to have fifty eBays. From a user’s perspective, it’s beneficial to have one place where all the guys are, instead of hundreds.”
That’s certainly an ideal model for meat markets. But for Joel, Grindr is about more than just dating. It’s about getting to know each other more closely, and staying in touch.
“This notion of a connected community is quite powerful,” he said. “I’m quite interested in helping us connecting, and becoming a stronger community. … The dream is that in the pocket of every gay man is Grindr. Once you get to that assumption, all these possibilities become possible. You can communicate with everyone.”
[bottom photo via]