“I’ve done it all,” says Prosak, 38, a radio host in Calgary, Canada, who has matched with men on Tinder, Bumble, eHarmony and Match. She has gone on some second and third dates over the years, but nothing has lasted. Now, she’s at the point where she’d rather do anything other than swipe right.
“It’s frustrating when things don’t line up with who the person said they are, or they don’t look like their photo,” she says. “If a date goes south because we’re different people, then fine. But you never know what you’re getting with some of these apps.”
Traditional dating apps only cover visuals. Over the past few months, in search of better results, Prosak has been trying something different. She downloaded Loko, a video dating app where people upload 15-second clips of themselves explaining who they are and why they’d make a good partner. After a match, users have 24 hours to set up a 15-minute video chat. If all goes well, they’ll exchange numbers.
Since Loko launched in September 2018, Prosak has done 15-minute chats with eight people and has gone on three in-person dates. One of the three may have worked out save for one problem: He lives 673 miles away in Seattle. Still, after a month of chatting, she flew out to meet him in person, and what could have been a short coffee turned into a four-hour date. They still talk, but the distance, among other things, is preventing things from going further.
She’s now a video-dating convert, in part because the format lets her have a first date from home. “I’m a busy person. I’m tired of going out on these dates and finding they may not lead anywhere,” she says. “This app gives me the face-to-face time without me having to drive anywhere.”
Video dating isn’t a new concept. In the 1980s and ’90s, there were companies that helped singles send VHS tapes to one another, but it still hasn’t caught on, even with millions of people now using Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat video.
Over the past couple of years, some of the more established dating companies have started toying with video. In June 2017, Hinge started letting users upload a maximum 30-second video from their camera roll to their profile. This past April, Tinder released Tinder Loops, a feature that allows a user to upload a two-second video to their profile. According to the company, people whose profiles contain video loops have longer conversations with their matches.
Loko was started by tech entrepreneur Vivek Jain and comedian Norm MacDonald. Since launching, it has racked up 20,000 downloads, mostly in New York and Los Angeles; in January, it expanded to Germany. Jain says video dating offers more insight into a potential mate’s personality. It’s safer than meeting someone face-to-face for the first time, and it eliminates what can be days (or weeks!) of pre-date texting.
Loko’s 15-minute video chat is supposed to replace a first date, Jain says. If you do agree to meet in person, you’ll have already gotten to know one another, which, he thinks, is a better recipe for success. “Time is valuable, so you don’t want to spend three hours with someone and have zero connection,” he says. “We want people to have more meaningful face-to-face dates.”
One of the challenges with video so far has been finding a way to store millions of them, says Michael Litt, co-founder and chief executive of Vidyard, a company that develops video-based software for businesses. Images can be compressed into a few kilobytes versus a video that plays at 25 frames per second. The longer the video, the larger the file.
To make it work, companies must have servers across the globe, otherwise a video stored in New York will move too slowly for someone watching it overseas. That’s expensive to set up. Costs, though, are coming down, which is why a company such as Loko can get off the ground and why others are starting to experiment.
At some point, there may be no stopping video, Litt says. According to Cisco, video traffic will account for 82 percent of all Internet traffic by 2022, up from 75 percent in 2017, while live video will account for 17 percent of all Internet traffic.
People are also getting more comfortable uploading videos of themselves. According to Instagram, 500 million people use the company’s Stories feature every day, while one Facebook executive said last year that the video-based story format will soon overtake the mostly picture- and text-focused news feeds as the main way that people share things with their friends.
We respond to video better than static pictures, too. According to HubSpot, a Cambridge-based sales and marketing software company, video posts on Instagram receive twice as much engagement as photos. When HubSpot asked people what kind of branded content was most memorable to them, 43 percent said video, 36 percent said photos and 18 percent said written.
As effective as video may be, and as popular as it’s becoming, many people are still hesitant to incorporate video into their dating lives. Clarissa Silva, a relationship coach and behavioral scientist, conducted a survey that found that 65 percent of women were not comfortable with live video appearances, while 30 percent of men felt it was an intrusion in their lives.
There’s also the possibility that people could use video to show their nether regions to unsuspecting viewers. Silva conducted an experiment where she screened potential dates using Google video and found that 19 percent only showed themselves from the waist down. Loko’s Jain is well aware of that issue, which is why he uses artificial intelligence to screen for inappropriate videos.
At first, Prosak felt weird about using video, too. But after posting one and watching a few, she came to embrace it. She’s now making better first connections and is paying more attention to potential mates. “I’d just flip through profiles and wouldn’t even remember the last five people I swiped through,” she says of her experience on more traditional dating apps. “But with video, the profiles are catching your attention — there are no more badly filtered pictures.”