If you’re looking for something more from your online or mobile social media than hot-or-not left and right swiping, the SK Planet, the media and messaging subsidiary of Korea’s telecom giant SK Telecom, has just launched a new app called Wayfare in android and iOS app stores to bring penpalling to social media.
Developed by a young Korean programming wunderkind, Jiho Kang, Wayfare is the second act for a startup idea Kang had initially pursued in the U.S.
Originally called Wander, the Wayfare app has you input basic information like the country ad city you’re living in, and it then prompts you to book a ticket to either a random destination or to choose from a pre-selected group of countries. The app then matches a user with someone who’s on the app in that location, prompting both to share photos, messages, and information about their lives.
“Unlike other apps that are instant, our app is different in that it actually asks you to wait,” says Kang. Responses — given the differences in time zones, are almost assured to not be immediate, which Kang says allows for more thoughtful messaging and deeper connections. “This isn’t like Tinder where you flip through 50 different women. This person is really a special person living in a place that you probably haven’t heard of and you wouldn’t have been able to meet up with this person.”
Kang noted that while it’s difficult for beta users to find the right match initially, once people do start connecting, they’re hooked.
Along with two co-founders, Kang initially embarked on the journey to create Wayfare while working at 500 Startups in 2010 and 2011. The team wasn’t able to raise a Series A, because of “circumstances”, but they kept the servers running to keep up with their 10,000 strong user-base.
The team parted company and Kang returned to Korea, eventually landing a job at SK Planet. The idea for Wayfare was still with him, and the users were still on the app, so he pitched the company’s internal incubator and the company agreed to put some resources behind it.
As with any social media and photo-sharing app these days, Wayfare has tried to come up with ways to deal with what Kang calls the “junk” problem. “Lots of apps that you hook you up with random strangers (meet new friends) have a problem with too many people sharing penis photos,” writes Kang. “We have a reporting system in place where users that have been flagged three times will automatically be banned by the system. We also review reports from users to actually check what the offending content was.”
Kang says that dick pics have popped up in less than 0.5% of the 40,000 photos that have been shared through the service. Another feature of the app is that it doesn’t match based on gender. “We don’t provide the option to filter matches by gender,” he writes.
Of the 10,000 people on the site now, roughly 28% are in the U.S., another 14% are in Japan, 10% are in the UK, 7% are based in Korea, Germany represents 7%, and there are 108 other countries who represent 34% of the app’s user base.
What about the language barrier? You don’t need to be fluent in another language to chat with someone thanks to a machine translation feature that’s part of the Wayfare app, which has allowed 30% of interactions to happen between people who don’t share a language.
And while the pace of the app may disappoint–you have to wait at least 20 minutes before you receive a reply–Kang says it’s intentional. “I believe our system creates more genuine interactions and relationships in the end.”