Worstall on Wednesday Given the massive, but not startling*, success of dating apps like Grindr and Tinder it might sound, well, it will sound, a little odd to state that in one way at least they're like the anti-internet.
For what that internet does is abolish geography as a binding limit on who one can socialise with. From the earliest BBS through to today's Facebook and so on, we can socialise with people on any continent, in any corner of our presumably square globe.
It might be that there's only 5 people worldwide who share your fascination with the finer details of scale models of the Bluebell Railway, but the internet will be where you can discuss matters with them.
On the other hand, dating apps are – to perhaps a mutually misunderstood level, but still to some level – about the idea of getting jiggy at some point, which requires a certain amount of geographical proximity (although there's no doubt one app at least in development out there for those who reject such staid attitudes towards sex. Or has Chat Roulette already cornered that market?)
This means that developers really do need to think a bit about the population size they're trying to serve.
For example, this old whine in the Guardian about why there's no lesbian version of Grindr:
Given all this, I'd be interested to know why nobody's yet managed to create a successful version of Grindr for women.
Perhaps developers are largely male and don't really understand female-female dating, and how different it is from female-male and male-male dating.
Maybe it's the lack of research into how women date other women? Or is it that women themselves are suspicious of the technology and its infiltration by men looking for a lesbian thrill?
Yet surely the time has come for women to have access to this technology. We deserve a revolution too.
She does discuss the difference in male and female sexual expression and we don't need to delve into the depths of evolutionary biology to explain this.
Simple observation of the passing scene will tell us that men will, if allowed, shag around as much as possible (perhaps “tend to” is better here) and women less so, so when men are shagging around with men there's rather less monogamy than in the wider society. Thus Grindr succeeds and the lesbian equivalents don't.
But there's another reason, too, and this goes to the heart of how social media works. To a large extent, the point is to abolish geography as a constraint. But the jiggy bit requires proximity, thus we've two things in tension.
Think, for example, of a small market town of maybe 5,000 people. Given 1 per cent of women (-ish, around that percentage) are lesbian and given age cohorts, that leaves us with perhaps 15-20 lesbians in town, at least some of whom are likely to be monogamously paired off.
Which is why a lesbian-themed dating app won't work in such a town. Five people looking for a date would be better served by having a weekly natter in the room above the town's most liberal pub than an app.
Another way of making the same point is that you can't build a social app that is both niche and also geographically specific.
The whole reason niche apps work is because it is possible to address the whole world of that niche, not just the bit within 10 miles of the user. And that bit of that niche within 10 miles is going to be too small to be interesting: 'coz it's a niche, see?