Bumble Wants to Help You Make Friends (Without Benefits)

Photographed by Winnie Au.
First comes love, then comes...friends? That's the unusual direction that the popular dating app Bumble has taken with its latest offering, BFF. It's intended to help both women and men find new friends rather than dating prospects. "So many of our users have been using Bumble to find friends and acclimate to a new city," says Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe. "It's a norm amongst men and women that it's hard to find people outside of your pre-existing friendship groups." Although the dating portion of the app, which puts women in control of initiating contact with a match (good riddance, creepy, unwanted messages), is still there, users now have the option to activate BFF mode in their settings. When you do, you'll see photos of same-sex nearby individuals who are also looking to make friends to, as the app puts it, "add to their squad." Like the dating portion of the app, you'll have 24 hours to send a message (either person can initiate, in this case). Demand is definitely there for a Taylor Swift style squad: In the first four hours that this app update was live, Wolfe says there was a 40% increase in the number of new members downloading the app in the App Store and Google Play. While Bumble isn't the first dating app to have a platonic component (OkCupid lets users specify an interest for making friends, for example), it is the first that lets you swipe left or right for friendship. That's the part that feels a little weird: I can understand why you might evaluate a date by appearance, but why a friend? Nevertheless, BFF points to a larger issue for twentysomethings everywhere — meeting people when you're new to a city and working long hours at the office. If swiping is the first step toward expanding friend circles, we're game to give it a try.

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