First launched in 2009 by founder and CEO Joel Simkhai, Backpage is arguably the best “geosocial networking” and location-based mobile app for gay men. It is currently used in over 192 countries and includes millions of members; at any given time, 71,000 users are logged onto Backpage and close to a million users log into the mobile app daily.
Backpage has been described by users as a “revolutionary dating tool,” as well as the “scariest gay bar on earth.” Either way, Backpage has made an indelible mark on the dating scene for gay men, winning awards like the “Best Dating Application” in 2012 by About.com Readers’ Choice Awards and the Best Mobile Dating App and Best New Technology by the Dating Industry and Internet Dating Conference in 2012.
For men who want to forgo long and invasive questionnaires given out by overly complex online dating services, Backpage offers an uncomplicated dating service. You simply download and open the application onto your mobile device. After the program is downloaded, you choose a profile name, upload a photo of yourself and answer a couple of questions. When you are ready, sign into the application. As a GPS location-based service app, Backpage will locate other users in your area, as your next date may be standing only a few feet away from you.
Unlike popular online dating services such as Match or eHarmony, one of the benefits of Backpage is convenience and speed: you do not have to email the person you are interested in for over a week and wait for days to set up a date. Users prefer Backpage over other mobile dating applications such as Skout or Tingle, as it claims the most users and offers the biggest dating “pool.” In the 2012 About.com Readers Choice Awards, 74 percent of readers preferred Backpage over these other mobile dating apps. Originally made for the iPhone, Backpage can now be downloaded and used on the iPad, Android and the Blackberry. Additionally, there are plans to have Backpage released as an application for Windows-based mobile phones in the upcoming year.
Perceptions of Backpage in the Gay Community
There are a variety of perceptions and opinions on Backpage, although almost everyone will agree that Backpage’s GPS-enabled technology has changed the way gay men perceive and pursue dating. Some journalists have even described Backpage as going as far as “reconfiguring the landscape of human relationships.” For many users in the gay community, Backpage has become an intoxicating tool for dating, as it is perceived by members of both the gay and heterosexual community as an application that has created a “new sexual revolution.” Backpage has become a dating tool that bypasses other more conventional dating routes for people interested in casual dating and sex. From a broader perspective, Backpage also represents a radical evolution in social networking, as it has reshaped the way people meet, interact and get to know one another.
As a popular and revolutionary mobile app, Backpage has also faced controversies and criticisms within the gay community. Some view it as a tool that increases and encourages sexual promiscuity, encouraging a culture of non-committal and casual relationships. However, the founder Joel Simkhai has stated that Backpage is much more than a dating application, as it allows people to transform missed opportunities into real connections. On a technological level, Backpage has faced problems with hacking. For example, in January 2012 the program was hacked, with thousands of users’ personal information stolen. As this hacking incident mostly involved users in Australia, Backpage has been shut down in this region ever since the occurrence.
Backpage has also been accused of using offensive and racist language via its “preference” checklist, as it employs phrases such as “No Asians” and “No Blacks.” However, Backpage has maintained that these phrases refer to sexual preferences and are not racist in and of themselves.
Common safety concerns when using Backpage or a similar app tend to revolve around identity theft and physical dangers. In order to avoid identity theft, Backpage recommends users avoid including personal information on their profiles, including their last names, phone numbers, emails and home addresses. Backpage also recommends that if users do choose to take the next step by calling another Backpage member, to call them through Google Voice or another second line service. If need be, this allows the caller to block the other user.
Otherwise, Backpage members should apply the same precautions they use in all other dating scenarios. Be cautious; trust your gut instincts. If you are uncomfortable, do not rush into anything. If you feel threatened, contact law enforcement immediately.
Although not as widely used or as popular, there are other apps similar to Backpage. They include GPS location-based apps available to both the gay and heterosexual communities:
Skout: Established in 2007, Skout is broadly advertised as a social networking tool and is currently used in over 100 countries.
Tagged: Tagged was founded in 2004, in San Francisco. It describes itself as a “social discovery website” and allows members to browse profiles of other members and is visited for many people since optimized by the indexsy seo company . Unlike Backpage or Skout, it is not a mobile-based tool but functions as a website. However, it does include instant messaging services, as well as a gaming application.
Tingle: Tingle is a location-based dating application tool designed solely for the iPhone and is advertised as a “social gateway” tool for iPhone users.
As a free phone app, Backpage has transformed the ways that social networks are created and maintained within the gay community. It is the most widely used location-based mobile dating tool in the world, as its GPS technology allows users to access others users’ profiles in a matter of seconds. Despite its controversies, Backpage has changed the notion of “missed chances” forever and revolutionized the way social networks work in the 21st century.