Most 21st century humanoids have probably either at one point tried online dating or dissed online dating. Or both.
We have reached a new point in history, at which we either do not feel like we can meet people in real life, or we are too encumbered by technology, or we are too awkward, or all of the above. As such, we turn to a virtual place where people mingle: The Internet. And as always, the Internet provides a solution.
Almost. Now the inverse is beginning to happen. We have become so accustomed to the culture of online dating sites that we regularly discover real life friends, Facebook friends and Twitter followers alike on these sites. And then there's that whole "you aren't who you say you are" fake profiles dilemma that happens when we meet people that we thought we were interested in based on their profiles. OKCupid profiles take forever to fill out; real-life romantic connections tend to happen instantaneously. What we really want is for the Internet to provide us with the same instantaneous "oh my gosh I met my soulmate" moment that happens in real life, in person. And we want it now.
San Francisco based coder Justin Krause doesn't think he can introduce you to the one - but he does think he can make the connection happen faster on Circl.es. Using public Facebook profiles, location-based data and a very simple criteria match page, Circl.es aims to match users with their special someone, without the drama of fake profiles and accidentally introducing people who already know each other. There's something special for the ladies and the genderqueers, too.
San Francisco-based Krause might be onto something here. A few months ago, he created location-based note-leaving service SkyChalk. It didn't take off, but just the other week Flickr Founder Katerina Fake came out with the eerily similar site, Pinwheel. If this tells us anything, it's that Krause knows what he's doing.
But back to Circl.es. Krause says that he started building it because users were all having the same problems.
"One of the big ones was just a lack of real identity," he tells ReadWriteWeb. "Another was fake pictures, not representing yourself accurately."
There are also barriers to getting going on sites like OKCupid, like the lengthy question-answering session. OKCupid uses mounds of data to help identify a user's special someone, and the large amount of data allows the site to publish curious findings on its blog OKTrends. A recent example includes The Mathematics of Beauty, which delves into female attractiveness, but without the usual photo analysis stuff."
"People do get worked up one way or another - everyone has an opinion about online dating," says Krause. "People either love it or they are appalled."
Users who sign up for Circl.es will never live in fear of their image randomly appearing on the OKTrends blog. They'll also never run into people they already know because Circl.es filters out your Facebook friends.
"I'm gay in San Franciscp, it's a small community and it's hard to find someone who is really outside your social circle," Krause tells me. "And that's what everyone I talk to wants - they want to meet someone new. I don't think that just applies to gay guys in cities. I think that applies to certain religions, colleges, etc. and you want the opportunity to meet someone outside your social circle."
Like many sites these days (Pinterest is the first one that comes to mind), Circl.es asks users to sign up with their Facebook profile. This is not out of sheer laziness on the user's end; rather, it is to help the user not mix their Facebook friends with their potential dates. Circl.es filters out all of a user's Facebook connections so that they don't accidentally end up trying to date them. (For users who do want to date their Facebook friends, why not just ask one of them out on a real-life date? Be old-fashioned.)
The Circl.es criteria section is also quite straightforward. Users must enter their email, gender, age, height, body type, race, education, religion and politics, and a few words in the "Your Blurb" section. Then enter a location using the rectangular Google map below. This is key. Potential mate criteria is even simpler - tell Circl.es the preferred gender, age, height, body type, race/ethnicity, education, religion, politics and how far away that person can live. There's a neat little option to include visitors, or people who are passing through on trips and don't actually live nearby (fling, much?).
Why the Facebook Connection Doesn't Feel Stalker-y
Like someone's Circl.es profile and want to see more? Click on the "View Facebook" button to see their public Facebook profile. If that person knows how to use Facebook's oft-changing privacy settings, the prospective date will only see a thumbnail picture and a Timeline cover photo (if they opted to include one). If interested, click the green "I'm Interested button," and Circl.es alerts the other person. If not, click "No thanks" and the potential connection will disappear. Forever.
"You only see their public profiles. Some people find that disconcerting," admits Krause. "But on the converse, it cuts through the crap - do I know this person?"
But what if a user become so enamored with the profile picture of another that they decide to take a chance, friend them on Facebook and immediately confess their love before Circl.es even delivers the message? (That would kinda be like saying "I'm in love with you" on the first date, so we suggest not doing that.)
"If you walk into a bar and give someone your real name, and they put it into your phone they can easily go add you on Facebook," explains Krause.
Still, there's a slight chance of running into someone on Circl.es who has many mutual friends. It's practically unavoidable in today's networked culture. Through Circl.es, no Facebook friending has to take place - just click the person's profile to view mutual friends. If it's a strong tie connection of a particularly touchy ex, for example, consider steering clear. But if the person is a mutual friend of a happy-go-lucky art friend or a random former roommate of the past, go for it.
It's All About the Neighborhood
Location-based "flirt" apps are a dime a dozen. The idea of immediately locating someone nearby sounds quite reminiscent of a certain gay male iPhone app Grindr, which quickly locates dudes who are ready to meet nearby other dudes nearby. The app has been wildly successful, with over three million members in 192 countries.
Krause does admit to "taking a lot of things from Grindr," but he also says that it's "kinda sketchy" and he doesn't really like it. Like Grindr, Circl.es is entirely location-based, but it is not a mobile app.
"The sorting on Circl.es is done by location," Krause says. "The closest person in the database who matches your signals and who you know. There's someone across the street who may be your next significant other, so you may as well meet them first."
Circl.es also tackles a problem that's specific to Internet-using ladies who log on looking for love.
"Women get overwhelmed with messages," Krause says. "They do not even respond, some told me. So I tried to make something that combined all of this into one."
On Circl.es, users will only connect if they both say that they're interested. "One cool thing is that it minimizes the amount of connections," says Krause. "If you say no to someone who says yes to you, they don't really know it."
OKCupid's Outdated Gender & Sexuality Terminology
On OKCupid, users must enter a binary gender and a three-option orientation. Are you female or make? Are you gay, straight or bisexual? What if you're all and neither, at once? Circl.es offers options for the genderqueer among us.
during college do not have the same weirdness about Facebook that most over 35 may have. While we all must be aware of what we post to Facebook and we need to be careful about whom we friend, there's a certain cultural acceptance around meeting people through Facebook.The thing that sets Circl.es apart from sites like OKCupid is the not-so-creepy Facebook connection that can ensue. People in their 20s, who were on Facebook
"At the end of the day, if there is a cute guy across the street who goes to different bars and keeps different hours, there is no way I'd ever meet him. Circl.es is trying to reduce the stigma. I could see people who meet her say 'oh we met on FB,' and once you click that you're interested, it sends it to Facebook. That's an advantage of this."
Circl.es launched last week, so users are mostly based in San Francisco. If this sounds like an interesting service, sign up in your city.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.