If you live in New York City, you may have noticed an onslaught of new posters featuring manic pixie dream girls and men who look like they're straight out of Trainspotting rambling about beat boxing and baby birds. They're advertisements for Badoo, a "social discovery" site as opposed to a social networking site; the goal is to meet quirky new friends who you don't already know in real life.
Badoo, which has 150 million registered users worldwide, apparently resonates particularly well with South Americans because they're used to striking up conversations with strangers in bars without secretly wanting to sleep with them, a concept with which many Americans are unfamiliar. With that in mind, could the site ever take off in the U.S.?
Slate's Seth Stevenson tested Baddoo out and concluded that he was not a fan of what he calls "Grindr for straight people," except it's not actually all that hookup-friendly. The site may be theoretically conducive to casual encounters, but there's no sorting algorithm, so within minutes Stevenson was bombarded with messages from people who live states away and with whom he had nothing in common. (Like one Wisconsin woman who listed short-shorts, Skittles, Swarovski, and chicken as her favorite things. Hey, I'd talk to her!)
A $1.99 power-up which buys Badoo users brief top-billing on the site attracted a wave of new visitors to his page, but no one who was actually close to his apartment or seemed like a potential "friend." (He describes one guy whose repeated IMs remind me of my AOL chatroom days: "hi. u don'tlook 38. hii. u need to say hi to me what's the fuck. what do u think i'm stupid. no hell i'm not please say hi.")
Stevenson concluded that "When it comes to social discovery, we find our own tribe" but that he's more of an OK Cupid guy (which means, in his own words, that he's a fan of "witty, in-depth, highly literate self-descriptions" — in the words of Jessica Powell, Badoo's chief marketing officer, it means that he's "more upmarket, a little more white, more indie rock." Badoo, if you're wondering is, "more mass market" and mainstream.)
"Maybe Badoo's micropayments system and chaotic chat environment might attract and favor those of us blessed with abundant hustle and chutzpah," Stevenson muses rather diplomatically. And/or those of us who are creeps, scammers (one of his new "friends" suddenly changed her age from 24 to 26 and then said "My age is completely ill-fitting" before signing off forever) and, well, women who are into Swarovski-studded short-shorts.
"u need to say hi to me" [Slate]