The App That Never Was: Wouldu & Tinder (A Love Story)

I have just decided on a number of things. One, that Christmas (which, in my books, encompasses all of December and probably most of November and January) is a perfect time for a rant. Two, that the end of the year is the perfect time to begin a new blog about ideas, algorithms, general interests, adventures, and life. Three, that the recent wave of interest in Tinder is … probably not the best place to begin … but hey … there’s a genuine story that has been going through my head over the past few days that I want to tell, that encompasses rants, algorithms, ideas, Matt Campbell, and other things.

Unfortunately, for some people, I’m not going to wax lyrical about some sordid anecdotes that came from my use of Tinder. I have none: despite some praise I have for it, I’m actually not into Tinder. Nor am I here to demean Tinder and the people that use it: people like what they like, there is no right and wrong way to date and live (within reason), so get over it.

Instead, the story is about an App that never was; about a group of brilliant engineers and imagineers from Belfast; about the rise of a social and technological phenomenon; and about our (my) realisation of people. So, sit back and read…

DISCLAIMER : It’s actually not that interesting — sorry in advance — I’ve hyped it up enough already.

Initiating contact with people — when sober at least — sucks. That’s the long and short of it. When approaching an attractive new guy or girl your hands get sweaty, you can feel your heart beat in your throat, a weird sense of light-headedness is cast over you, you lose the ability to string sentences together, you will always laugh at the most mundane things, you have no control over the volume of your voice, and come across as a genuinely ‘special’ person. And not in a good way ‘special’. Making first contact is, to many people, a horrifying experience. That’s why clubs are typically where people meet — in the darkest place possible so that you hope that people will forget your face.

Everyone has known this since the dawn of time. So it was about damn time someone had the gall to make an app that does it for you without fear of rejection and embarrassment. Moreover, the ability to edit yourself as you’re talking to someone means that you have the opportunity to lose that whole ‘special’ vibe that you initially give off. It was about time Tinder was created… right?

Tinder: The Match-Making App

During my trip to New York it became apparent that the match-making app was all the rage. Everyone was using it. Its main purpose is to hook-up with others that look (at least vaguely) attractive even if their profile picture is Photoshopped or covered with an Instagram filter – everything ugly looks mind-blowing with an Instagram filter. However there are a lot of other uses: it’s actually really good to talk to people about a new city or area you have never visited and get information on the best shops, bars, coffee places, clubs, tourist attractions, and that kind of thing.

Social networking became useful as my friends and I were travelling across the East coast of America: it turns out that random people in the area know a lot of local information that you want to know. We were introduced to nice places, met new people, and had experiences that we would not have been able to have if it weren’t for social media.

Since coming back from America it seems that Tinder has really kicked off in Europe. Well, when I say “Europe” I mean the UK. And when I say the “UK” I mean London and Belfast. But that’s pretty much everywhere that counts, right?

In Europe, it seems that it is being used much more for its match-making/hooking-up purposes; probably something to do with the desperation of the culture or something. Americans seemed to have more backbone/actual standards.

Wouldu: The Match-Making App

Whilst lying in bed one night last week I was thinking about Tinder, and noticed that it had already been done before: the app had already been created long before Tinder had been invented, or even thought about… and it was created in Belfast… it was just never thought that it would actually work… and never thought that people would be so adventurous as to actually use it.

Matt is one of my best friends. For pretty much as long as I have known him he has wanted to be an entrepreneur; he would think of the most amazing (and utterly stupid) ideas and inventions. His imagination is incredible, and despite all the shit that comes out of his mouth there is often a gem in need of a polish: a profound statement, a great idea.

One in particular that he described to me, and we discussed and evolved during my Masters (almost 3 years ago – geez), really stuck out. The idea was an app, and it was called “Wouldu” (although I personally preferred “Wudu”, but whatevz). The concept of Wouldu was simple: it was an app that integrated into a users Facebook profile by making use of Facebooks (Graph) API and subsequently gathers a list of the users’ friends. The user then picks what gender he or she is attracted to and the app generates the list of people from their friendship group that are potential matches. The user then makes a private decision of whether they “would” or “wouldn’t” a friend from the users contact list. This was essentially just a yes or no decision as to whether the person would or wouldn’t … you know … the other person: left for no, right for yes. Each decision the user makes is private; however if there is a mutual “would” between two people, both users are notified – they are matched – and a conversation between the users is constructed. There were then plans to add a feature so that lists of people would be constructed depending on how far away they were from the user. This whole concept is beginning to sound oddly familiar, right?

So, there were two elements to the app: one was concerned with match-making between Facebook friends, while the other was concerned with match-making between randomers close by. The experience is just uncannily like Tinder

After working on it over weekends for over a month, the app was built and in working condition. We tested it on our own Facebooks and it was beautiful. It was so simple, and it worked, and was put online at “so.wouldu.me” for beta testing. You can go check it out – I’m not sure if it is still compatible with Facebook, the code hasn’t been changed in about two and a half years (maybe more), but Facebooks API and codes has obviously have changed… a lot.

The app was never promoted to the public, and continued to be in the beta stage. I mean who would have such low self-esteem to actually use something like Wouldu apart from nerds that sit at their computers all day…? Well, given the success of Tinder, it turns out that people are much more … I guess … up for a good time/anonymously DTF … than what we thought.

Things could have been so different if Wouldu had kept chugging on. The most bizarre thing was that the app was built, it worked REALLY WELL, it was just never discussed beyond a tight circle of friends. There was even talk of a matching algorithm based on Bayseian (conditional) probability that would provide you potential matching candidates based on who your best friends were liking (see the pictures below); it would give you much more suitable candidates, which is so much better than Tinders random algorithm based on distance only. Dang! I really should send Tinder the algorithm idea and tell them to clean up their act.

Taking stock and looking ahead

So, I wonder if there is anything to garner from this experience? Probably nothing of real value, but let’s see…

First, you never know what is going to be successful.

Second, do what you enjoy and share it with people. A lot of people won’t care about whatever you do, but there will always be a few people that will, and they’re the people that matter. Haters gonna hate – don’t let them drag you down. Also, caring is contagious: if enough people like whatever it is, haters suddenly become likers.

Third, there are some very talented people under your nose – even in Belfast! Actually… who am I kidding… they all did the right thing and left 😦 .

Oh, and fourth, I miss Matt and his cray ideazzzz.

Owen

Appendix A

Notes from when I was trying to analyse Wouldu (around June 2011 maybe).

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