Online dating is trash. Seriously, try to find anyone who disagrees with me.
Vibes, operated by an all-women team, aims to be different. Sure, the swipe mechanics are still there, but that’s about the only similarity you’ll find between Vibes and the likes of Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and others.
“Because of how crowded the space is, when people hear the words ‘dating app’ they’re like ‘ugh, why do I need another one? My dance card’s full,” Vibes CEO Jenais Zarlin told TechCrunch. “But those same people are also the ones to say the ratio of good experiences to negative ones, or ones that feel transactional is way off.”
The basis for Vibes is that meaningful connections are rooted in respect and authenticity, Zarlin told me. That’s why she sees Vibes as an extension of physical safe spaces “we know and admire.”
“Text and semi-anonymity really embolden people to behave in ways they wouldn’t in person,” Zarlin said.
That’s why text-based messaging is not part of the experience at all. When you sign up (via Facebook)*, you first must agree to the app’s code of conduct. Vibes’ code of conduct centers around respecting difference (not being racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and body-shaming) and generally respecting others by not being sexually explicit or threatening harm.
Next, you select whether you’re down to vibe with people whose preferred pronouns are him, her or them.
“In other apps, the heteronormative agenda is pretty front and center and gender binaries are pretty core to them,” Zarlin said. “It feels like we’re at a time where we need to move past that.”
Next, you select some photos you want to feature and then choose a conversation starter. If you match with someone, you’ll record a short, pixelated video answering their question.
Vibes pixelates the video for those who may be shy. But even with the video pixelated, people can still hear your voice and pick up on mannerisms, just as they would be able to in person.
“It’s a much heavier lift sending a video message, but we expect that it will result in more quality interactions — but probably fewer overall interactions,” Zarlin said.
Its emphasis on moderation also sets Vibes apart from other dating apps. For every first message you receive, Vibes requires you to actively acknowledge if the message was or was not okay with you.
The present day also feels like the right time for Vibes to launch to the masses, Zarlin told me.
“2018 has been a very interesting year for a lot of reasons and there’s been dialogue around self-care, respect and equality,” Zarlin said. “We’ve never talked so much about those issues and yet I think we’re still not innovating around them, or not innovating enough. So Vibes really does to me feel like it has so much potential to be transformative and it was always designed with all of those ideals and values in mind.”
Vibes soft-launched back in July and currently has a few hundred people using the app. Vibes, which has $1.5 million in funding, is free to use but envisions developing a freemium model down the road.
*Zarlin said the decision to use Facebook was made before all of Facebook’s data scandals. Vibes does eventually plan to remove Facebook from the sign-up process.