Throughout the centuries, successful dating and coupling has always relied on protocols, from arranged marriage to courtship to swiping on dating apps. These protocols have evolved along with technology and culture. In the West, however, swipe-based dating app protocols now occupy a “protocol monopoly.” Hinge, Bumble, Tinder, and other apps have all instated a swipe protocol, despite being differentiated in terms of branding and target audience. Despite numerous attempts to engineer alternatives, no other dating protocol has sufficient market liquidity to meaningfully compete with swipe-based apps. The widespread adoption of swipe-based apps is problematic due to the protocol’s problems and failure modes: it enables ghosting, suffuses the entire dating app ecosystem with a general mood of canned, non-unique messages (and, thus, boredom), and favors users its algorithms deem most attractive. Even when users successfully match, the matches seldom translate to dates, let alone relationships. In fact, the swipe protocol exhibits many of the undesirable qualities outlined by Nadia Asparouhova in her essay on the dangers of protocols. Why has this protocol monopoly come to dominate the market? What might alternative, perhaps decentralized, dating protocols look like?

Sharing Protocol