There are online dating services, and then there are location-based social services like Foursquare. A new application called Blendr combines the two, letting users cut to the chase and find someone to meet nearby, right now.technology/07bits-blendr/07bits-blendr-articleInline.jpg" alt="Blendr was created by the man behind Grindr, a popular app that helps gay men locate others near them." width="190" height="287" />
After firing up the application, which is free and available for Apple iOS devices and on Facebook, users create a simple profile featuring a photo and a short description of themselves. They select several options from a long list of interests — everything from liking tennis to being a fan of Gossip Girl. The app then shows people nearby who have also used the app recently and share similar interests.
The app’s creator, Joel Simkhai, says it is based on the notion that it doesn’t take complicated matching software to find a mate, or even to meet a new friend. Knowing that someone with a shared love of dim sum or poker is nearby is enough to break the ice with that person and lead to a meeting.
“If someone speaks the same language or is also into cooking, or crafts, that’s a strong basis of commonality and you might want to go meet them,” he said.
People can send quick messages to one another through the application, and they can use it to post status messages on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, if they choose. The application also offers a check-in feature so that users can broadcast their location to others using the app when they are at a concert or coffee shop.
But the application also incorporates several privacy features so that users can decide who sees them and when. The application doesn’t show an exact location, just a rough estimate of how far away a user is — such as 25 or 300 feet. In addition, the app offers several ways to control who can see your profile. For example, 25-year-old women using the app who decide they want to meet only 25-year-old men can adjust their settings appropriately so their profile is only visible to that group.
“Even if you’re a married man and you only want to meet other married men to play poker, you can set the settings to show those matches,” Mr. Simkhai said.
For now the app is supported by advertising, but Mr. Simkhai said there could one day be a paid version with additional features.
Mr. Simkhai knows a thing or two about successful mobile dating applications. He’s also the entrepreneur behind Grindr, a popular app that helps gay men locate others near them. He says Grindr, which was released in 2009, has attracted 2.6 million users in nearly 200 countries.
Mr. Simkhai said he had been barraged with requests for a similar service for other groups and has been working on Blendr for the last year. He wanted people to be able to use the app to find dates, but also new friends.
“We decided to make an app that helps people discover a more social world around them,” he said.