Dating: The Final Frontier

This Bizarre Dating App Is More Depressing Video Game Than Matchmaker

Floret lets you rank hot teens in your area and send them video messages. Yikes.

Floret_Logo

Usually, dating sites and apps try to convince singles that their service is more likely to land you an in-person date than the competition. Tinder gives you a ton of options fast. OkCupid gives you the best match. HowAboutWe makes the first date the absolute priority.

Not Floret. Floret doesn’t care in the least about real dates. Instead, Floret is a “dating” app that makes quickly matches you up young singles so that you can just keep chatting with them on your phone and sending them little videos. In order to find your matches, it oddly uses an antiquated logic problem to pit you against other potential matches.

“There are plenty of dating services focused on in person dating,” Floret CEO Milad Moh told Betabeat. “What we’re focused on is online romance.”

By online romance, Mr. Moh means a relationship — fling, tryst, whatever — that occurs entirely through digital communication. His bet is that many people aren’t interested in meeting someone in person, or even reaching that moment any online dater knows well: that moment when you go off-app, and propose to move from messages to texts.

But Mr. Moh rejects the idea that online romance is meaningless.

“It depends on what you define as meaningless,” Mr. Moh said. “You can have a very rich experience just online.”

When you start Floret, the app imports your Facebook photos and makes a small profile for you using, strangely, your work history. Then, it puts you in a 90 second lightning-round game with three other same-sex competitors. You then look at four potential matches and rank them, and Floret applies a logical game from the early 1960s called the Stable Marriage Problem decide who gets matched with who.

As explained on Floret’s site, their sorting algorithm goes a little something like this:

“Given n men and n women, where each person has ranked all members of the opposite sex with a unique number between 1 and n in order of preference, marry the men and women together such that there are no two people of opposite sex who would both rather have each other than their current partners.

“If there are no such people, all the marriages are ‘stable’.”

Once you have your match, you can either send them text or dissolving video.

Now, one nice thing about Floret is that it gets you a ton of matches incredibly quickly. Even with apps that have a reputation for being fast and easy (i.e.: Tinder), it can be tough to generate a bunch of matches at first. With Floret, you could play a new game every 90 seconds and rack up a pile of new matches.

Floret is like playing a Darwinian game of 'hot or not' with 4 people at a time. (Image via Floret)

Floret is like playing a Darwinian game of ‘hot or not’ with 4 people at a time. (Image via Floret)

Not that it pays off. In fact, of all of the people I messaged while using the app, exactly none of them replied, leading me to consider two possible conclusions:

  1. The more gamified and casual a dating app is, the less seriously users are willing to want actual connections in favor of playing hot-or-not.
  2. My game is weak (likely).

It probably didn’t help that I’m a little older than Floret’s target age range, which Mr. Moh says is 16-to-22-year-olds.

Another feature that doesn’t make you feel so great is the simple nature of the ranking game. The only thing worse than getting your fourth-ranked match is seeing a perfect match from one game ignore your message, pop up in your next game and match with someone else.

Not that it’s happened to me.

The next step for Mr. Moh is adding, of all things, music and sound effects, which isn’t a feature that I found myself sadly missing in a dating app. Also, the app doesn’t support same-sex matches yet, which Mr. Moh is definitely interested in adding.

To say Floret and its business model are a little strange is an understatement. The matching game is a combination of fun, depressing and unrewarding, and the whole concept of an app that targets young people with digital-only relationships sounds like a glittering lure for catfish-style predators.

Floret launched out of beta a month ago, and the app has made 500,000 matches, though they won’t say how many people are actually using it. Overall difficult to imagine people flocking away from apps that actually put you out on dates where you can eat, drink, wine, dine, flirt and maybe even get laid.

But god, playing the little match game is definitely addictive, if not — dare I say — totally meaningless.

Follow Jack Smith IV on Twitter or via RSS. jsmith@observer.com