Online dating behemoth Match Group is introducing a new gay dating app, just in time for Pride. The company, which owns the lion’s share of the global dating market, is launching Archer, a “social-first” dating experience for gay, bi and queer men.
Archer won’t actually be hitting the App Store just yet — that happens a little later this month. It rolls out in New York in June, with LA and DC lined up in the next few months and a full launch to the rest of the U.S. within the year.
While it’s sort of surprising that Match Group — which owns everything from OkCupid and Tinder to BLK and Plenty of Fish — took this long to add a gay-specific app to its massive portfolio, Archer does offer a few twists. Unlike gay hookup apps like Grindr, Scruff and their ilk, Archer aims to combine dating app necessities (messaging, the grid, etc.) with traditional social media features designed to foster deeper “self expression.”
At launch, that includes interest tags, but Archer has near-term plans to add an ephemeral Stories feature and the ability to follow other users — all things you’d expect in something like Instagram, but not necessarily in a dating app.
“We know that what somebody is looking for on a dating app really evolves every hour, every day, every week,” Archer Director of Brand Marketing and Communications Michael Kaye told TechCrunch. “You might be looking for something on a Friday or Saturday night that is very different than what you might be looking for on a Tuesday afternoon or a Sunday morning.
To that end, the app also offers a few different views: A Grindr-style grid with two different zoom levels and a linear layout that gives users looking for love an in-depth view of one profile at a time. Generally, the app looks well-designed and flexible, aiming to meet the many different needs of a busy and diverse dating community.
“When we first were thinking about Archer, we recognized that relationships are so fluid within this community,” Kaye said. “So they might be single one day, then in a monogamous relationship, and then you might open up your relationship. So we wanted to make sure that whatever this app became it served every stage in your life.”
Archer is yet another experience from corporate dating giant Match Group, and that pedigree comes bundled with an at least marginally less NSFW mindset. In lieu of a sea of torsos, Archer users will be required to display a profile photo that includes their face. (Grindr’s founder similarly resents the sea of headless men, launching his own face-first follow-up app Motto late last year.) Archer uses selfie verification at signup and every user’s profile picture, face included, will be verified, presumably through the same system that Match Group apps like Tinder use.
On the safety front, Archer will also employ AI in its chat feature to auto-blur potential nudity, masking unsolicited dick pics for users who might not be collecting them at the moment. The lack of torsos and relative dearth of dicks certainly sets a different tone from what gay men have mostly come to expect in hookup apps, but Archer is making a bet that its relatively (and literally) buttoned-up approach will cast a wider net. That said, you can still plan to share steamy torso et cetera images through private photo albums, which can display up to six photos at once, and users can grant that access and revoke it easily at any time through the app.
Detractors of yet another app from Big Dating might criticize these decisions for sanitizing the gay dating experience. That criticism is probably fair depending on what you’re looking for, but Archer does seem to be designed with the unique needs of gay, bi and queer men in mind. (And to its credit Archer lacks the ongoing ownership concerns plaguing Grindr, though Match Group isn’t without its own privacy missteps.) That involved surveying, interviewing and product testing with more than 1,000 men from the community it’s looking to serve — something you’d certainly hope a slick new gay dating app hoping to build goodwill with a marginalized community would do, of course.
“There are a lot of men within the community that will turn to dating actually moving to a new city,” Kaye said. “I know so many people who are in monogamous relationships, but have downloaded gay dating apps when moving to New York for the first time to find their chosen family in the area. So we figured why not create a platform that makes that really easy for you.”
Archer might be serving a specific cross-section of the dating world, but it’s still trying to be many different things to many different people — an approach that may pay off in the end, particularly in light of its parent company’s total dominance of the online dating scene. Archer is betting that gay men might want to hook up, find love, build community and connect around shared interests in a one-stop shop of an app. And they might be right, particularly for anyone tired of the headless torso dating scene.