Cliick Wants App Users To Click Over Clickbait

Meet Cliick: another dating app wannabe, but one that’s taking a bit of a leftfield approach to the perennial problem of matching singles. Instead of proffering profiles for users to swipe through and judge, a la Tinder (and its myriad imitators) Cliick is using news stories as the swipeable connective tissue — linking users to each other when they like or discuss similar stories.

The iOS app, which is currently invite-only to ensure a balanced user-base, works by asking users to specify what age-range and gender/s they would like to meet, and then drops them into a news feed where they can read, like, comment on or swipe past news articles (from the usual ‘trending content’ suspects, e.g. Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Bored Panda etc).

The content each user sees is tailored to their particular interests, pulled via the app’s Facebook log-in requirement. It also uses its own learning algorithms to keep adapting the content it shows each person — so their like and dislike signals are fed back to iterate the content selection algorithm.

Users that like similar stories, and also match each others’ location/age/gender requirements, will then encounter each others’ profiles via comments/likes left on stories in their mutual interest bubble. From there, they can click to view each others’ profiles, start chatting directly and see if any digital sparks result.

“We are aiming to bring the real-life experience of meeting new people organically to the virtual world of mobile in a meaningful and efficient way,” Cliick’s founder Moe Rafiee tells TechCrunch.

“Cliick adds context to the encounters as when a user finds another user interesting, he/she can start a conversation with the other user by replying to the comment the other user posted on a piece of content,” he adds, fleshing out the difference between Cliick and other dating apps.

“In other words, the comments (and the corresponding content) act as an ice breaker and will allow a conversation to develop naturally giving users an opportunity to get to know each other a bit more and see if there is a good enough connection between them before investing time in meeting each other in person.”

If the problem with snap judgement (let’s call them ‘thumb jerk’) dating apps — such as Tinder — is that they encourage singles to ‘transactionalize‘ the business of meeting a potential mate, pushing people to be overly prescriptive to speed up the profile-sorting process, while also (arguably) subtly undermining the notion of making a meaningful connection by encouraging users to keep playing their matching game (to keep them using the app), then dating apps that take a more roundabout, intentionally slower and context-sensitive approach — as Cliick is aiming to — could carve out a fan-base among singles burnt out by the Tinder thumbmill. Time will tell. Although whether clickbait can generate meaningful conversations remains to be seen.

The other pertinent question here is: Will dating become just another layer applied on top of all sorts of apps? If you break dating apps down into their constituent parts they generally consist of two parts: A) matching and B) messaging. It would therefore seem a pretty trivial addition to add a ‘dating layer’ atop apps that are ostensibly focused on something other than dating.

For example, a recipe app could become a way for likeminded foodies to mingle. Ditto a specialist sports or fitness app. And so on. Mobile automates the location layer so users can easily be pushed towards likeminded folk in their immediate vicinity. Their age is often given up via Facebook sign-in. The only other key question is whether someone is single or not. That data can also come via Facebook. Or it could be a simple request setting within the app — letting users specify if they want to opt into meeting other singles within their special interest group, whether that group is relating to sailing or running or cycling or whatever. If there’s an app for everything, every app could in theory offer a matchmaking layer — although apps that are focused on linking likeminded communities would seem the likeliest candidates.

If you think all that sounds a bit odd, consider mobile marketplace startup Wallapop. It’s a mobile location-based flea market app which lets users buy and sell secondhand stuff in their neighborhood. That may sound inherently unsexy but the startup has experimented with matching single users wanting to meet other singles — while selling their spare bed (or whatever). Point is technology still hasn’t found a way to predict chemistry as accurately as two people actually meeting up, however fleetingly, IRL. So Wallapop giving its single users a secondary motive to get together — i.e. the chance to surreptitiously check each other out on the off-chance sparks will fly — might actually be rather smart thinking. Certainly it’s a worthy experiment.

I know of one married couple who met IRL after he advertised his spare room for rent and she came to check it out, for instance. As the saying goes, love will find a way — and apps are just another communication medium that facilitates connections. So why should dating be limited to just dating apps?

As for Cliick, it’s just the start for the bootstrapping startup’s dating foray. The San Francisco-based team started working on the app in March, launching it on the App Store this week — and are just firing up their marketing efforts, with a pretty standard dating app marketing plan to hire campus representatives to push the app to students, starting this fall. So their experiment to see whether clickbait can forge lasting human connections starts here.

“The app is fully functional and has all the features designed. However, it currently places some users on a waitlist as they sign into the app (determined based on the user’s demographics – age, gender, location). We then give access to waitlisted users progressively to maintain a well-balanced user community,” notes Rafiee, who has a background in machine learning and data science. “We are planning to keep our waitlisting framework until the app’s user base has a reasonable size and diversity. We are hoping to get there by mid-late fall.”