Anyone who’s been on an online date knows surprises come with the territory. The people you meet don't always resemble their photos. Witty texters can be dull. Single people can be married.
A year-old dating app called The Grade is trying to eliminate surprises and keep people honest. The company, in the hopes of accomplishing this goal, recently introduced “peer review,” a feature encouraging people to rate their matches as “quality person” or not, and then add more detail from there. The Grade includes this information in a public rating of each profile.
“We really do believe this is now the holy grail in dating,” Cliff Lerner, The Grade’s CEO, told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “What is more frustrating than meeting someone on a dating site and finding out they're in a relationship? Or finding out they lied about their age? There's nothing you've ever been able to do about that up until this point.”
Lerner cited a number of statistics -- based on The Grade’s own research -- meant to support his claim. He said 71% of The Grade’s users believe peer review will help the app eliminate “creeps." Eighty-four percent of women, he added, said they feel safer on The Grade because of peer review. And 78% of women said they were more likely to “like” someone if they have a positive peer review. Eighty-eight percent of women said they wouldn't like a guy if he had a negative peer review.
Of men who had previously texted their business to a woman they met online, 90% said they would not do so knowing they could get peer reviewed, according to Lerner.
The Grade, using peer review and other factors, has kicked off 1,500 people for falling below its standards. To get kicked off, one needs to get Fs across the board, but it’s possible to get booted after sending a message that is reported by its recipient as abusive or picked up by The Grade’s technology and after human review, is found egregious.
The app has been downloaded 100,000 times in about a year of operation, according to Lerner.
The Grade stamps every profile with an actual letter grade, something I saw firsthand while using the app for the past few weeks. The letter grade takes into account everything from peer reviews, to how many people like your photo, to your spelling and grammar and how often you respond to messages. My grade is currently a B, but it’s been as high as an A-, and as low as an F. When The Grade kicks users off, it gives them a chance to appeal (thankfully, I didn’t get that far). New year’s resolution: respond to messages in a more timely fashion.
The Grade does sound somewhat similar to Peeple, the much-derided, still-unlaunched app pitching itself as a place to post Yelp-style reviews of, yes, people. But there’s one key difference, according to Lerner: There are no free-form reviews on The Grade. In other words, you can’t pen a screed about someone that everyone else on the app will see. Peer review grades, he added, only post if a number of people have rated you. That said, you can submit a peer review without even matching with someone, and most of the grades on The Grade follow a familiar pattern: people perceived as good-looking get the As, folks perceived as unattractive get Fs, and the people in between get Bs and Cs. This isn’t the case with every profile, but swipe around long enough on The Grade and you’ll see the pattern emerge.
One of the nicest things about The Grade is it gives you stats about how often you are liked when each profile picture is displayed. It then compares that against the average likes for people of your age and gender, so you know how you’re doing against the competition. This allows you to keep testing new profile pictures until one finally (hopefully) works, shortening the head-scratching period that accompanies almost every other dating app.
“The profile grade is simply based on how much of your profile you've filled out and also how often you're getting liked,” Lerner said, before citing some common problems people run into. “They either have pictures that don't tell anything about their personality,” he said. “... And they don't write anything interesting about themselves.”
Competing against established players like Tinder and Hinge, it’s hard to tell if The Grade’s approach will be enough to give it an entry into the competitive online dating space. But if it can eliminate an unsolicited dick pic, or two, it will at the very least make the world a slightly better place.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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