And that seems about right: I can’t even count how many gay friends I have for whom popping open Grindr is as rote of a smartphone task as scanning their email-clogged inboxes.Grindr, for instance, seems to be looking to shed its scurrilous image as “just a hookup app.” In March, the company that pioneered the geolocation-based, casual sex–facilitating sensation launched the online magazine Into.CEO Joel Simkhai told in a recent interview that “millions of Grindr users [were] asking us to figure out what’s going on around them,” so the company decided to start curating culture-minded content.While it’s still early days, the publication seems to represent an earnest effort to re-envision the Grindr brand. It’s published a buffet of articles, photography, and videos that cater to a variety of identities and interests.The pro-Kremlin government in the long-contested region had begun rounding up and abusing dozens, if not hundreds, of alleged homosexual men. They involuntary outed many others to their families in a region where the sexual orientation is considered taboo.Grindr for Equality, the app’s advocacy arm, and the Russian LGBT Network, a St.With open events and publications, these companies get to put their brands on a wider variety of gay connections.And, in doing so, the likes of Grindr, Hornet, and Scruff are re-creating queer sociability in significant ways.
Since the 2009 launch of Grindr, the first and most ubiquitous of the set, gay dating apps have racked up north of several-dozen million users in some 200 countries (including Cuba! Grindr says that its users average 54 minutes on the app per day.What perhaps sets these new brands apart from their predecessors, then, is their push to expand the visibility of the queer community.For instance, one user might not know much about another offline, but he might know little things about him from having scrolled through his geotagged social media page.This isn’t to suggest that having an out presence in public spaces is the only thing that matters for strengthening the community, especially when vulnerability often attends visibility.But there’s power in being able to meet, forge connections, take up space, and simply point queer people to gatherings of all different forms and shapes. At a time when—for reasons like rent, warming attitudes toward the queer community, and technology—gay bars are disappearing, apps are trying to offer the sorts of interactions that reproduce many of the same historic functions.