This Valentine’s Day day, let love know where you are — via Foursquare, of course.
The fastest growing trend in social networking is location-based iPhone and Android apps, which tell the online world exactly which restaurant you’re eating at or driveway you’re parked in. Applications like FourSquare and Gowalla profess to better connect us with our friends. But more and more applications use them to let people meet up — and ultimately hook up.
So the next time you’re at the local bar, do pause to send that tweet. After all, while your iPhone is checking you in, users nearby could be checking you out.
“Mobile dating is different,” explained Andrew Weinreich, founder of a mobile-dating application called MeetMoi. “You’re literally dating as you go. You have less time to be discriminating and can easily meet up with someone nearby.”
Weinreich told FoxNews.com that people are drawn to dating via cell phone because it turns an awkwardly arranged date into a much more casual affair. “Online dating really requires an incredible amount of planning,” he noted. “You write people in advance, you wait for them to e-mail you back, take the time to figure out when to meet. It’s almost unheard of to have impromptu coffee.”
With your cell phone passing out your precise location to the foot, it seems dating — and hooking up — is making a comeback.
Currently an array of applications are helping you find a cutie or two nearby, even if that’s not their outright intention. For example, take new website IMGuest.com which works as a location-based social site for business pros. The site lists a four-step process for users: Check in to your hotel, find interesting hotel guests, set up face-to-face meetings, expand your professional networking.
“While we traveled for work, we saw people sitting at the hotel bar after conferences or being in business meetings, and they looked kind of bored and lonely,” Asaf Engel, co-founder of IMGuest.com, told FoxNews.com. “So we’re looking to convert that downtime people have in hotels into networking time. The site allows these travelers to interact with each other and create new business opportunities.”
If creating new business opportunities isn’t the only thing on the lonely business traveler’s mind — well, so be it.
Other apps are far less subtle. A newly developed site called Ratio Finder takes check-ins from Foursquare and generates a map of the area according to gender imbalances. So if you’re female, you’ll be able to find the nearest restaurant or bar where the male game is plentiful (there’s nothing to prevent you stumbling into a gay bar, however).
And then there’s Weinreich’s MeetMoi, an application designed specifically to help people find willing dates nearby via their iPhone or Android smartphone. Users can update their location on MeetMoi, see who’s close to them, and then figure out where to meet up. So far, Weinreich says the application has seen a lot of success, resulting in numerous long-term relationships and even marriages.
So what does this mean for all these GPS-based applications? Are FourSquare, Facebook, and Twitter simply a writhing pit of hormones with people hunting for newer, more exciting ways to score?
Before you yell out “Yes,” note that statistics show people are hesitant about these new ways to meet up. A recent study from Microsoft found that less than 20% of users had ever used a service that lets people know where they are or where another person was located. New apps may make hooking up easier, but users are still too shy to actually try them out.
Gary Culliss, the creator of a Twitter client called Firefly, has immersed himself in the location-based application world. He claims that while the technology may make one-night stands easier, people aren’t necessarily checking in for that purpose.
“Of the check-ins that are posted from these sites, only about 25% of them actually get pushed over to Twitter,” said Cutliss. “And a lot of these folks are checking in privately so as to not bother their friends. That says to me that people are more interested in the gaming aspects of it all — like gaining points, or getting badges, or becoming mayors of different places. ”
And as for those who do actually use these services to go on the prowl, Cutliss says that these applications are just a brand new avenue for an ancient desire.
“Location-based apps don’t cause the problem any more than Twitter or Facebook cause the problem,” Cutliss told FoxNews.com.
But people may not remain so hesitant. Another study from Juniper Research predicts that by next year, over a quarter of a billion people will be using mobile services to date. Weinreich agrees, saying romance simply has to keep up with our fast-paced society.
“We’re very direct,” Weinreich told FoxNews.com. “Our one goal is to help you date. We help you find people faster and easier than anywhere else.”