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Proximity in location-distance, or time ?

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 11, 2013

The Grindr app locates other people by distance, not time, as a previous version of this post stated.

The application focuses on proximity rather than location -- showing people's distance.

Jaime Woo, author of the book, Meet Grindr, How One App Changed the Way We Connect, says the cultural and technological impact of Grindr is much broader than most people realize. Mr. Woo, in a presentation on the design principles of the application, delivered Saturday afternoon at the South by Southwest conference, said the application had completely -- and very likely permanently -- altered the way app developers and users think about location-based services.

Grindr's main purpose is to facilitate hookups that are "spontaneous and intimate," he said. Both of those results are immensely appealing -- a kind of serendipity -- and contribute to the reasons that people are loyal and dedicated to an application, regardless of its intention. Scores of mobile apps and social networks have failed to inspire such enthusiasm, he said.

Mr. Woo said there were a lot of lessons to be learned from Grindr's financial success, which has inspired a wave of competitors -- Mister, Scruff, Jack'd, Tinder, OkCupid Locals -- to follow in its wake.

He said the primary appeal of Grindr was its simplicity. Users browse thumbnails, mark the ones they like as favorites or send them messages. That is different from Facebook and Twitter, where likes, pokes, retweets and favorites are often murky signals at best. Grindr's message is immediately clear from the moment that users sign up. The inherent value in that kind of intuitive design cannot be underestimated, he said.

The application focuses on proximity rather than location -- showing people's distance. This preserves privacy while sustaining a sense of mystery. The application also removes barriers for men who want to meet other men who are looking to connect.


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