In the ever-evolving landscape of LGBTQIA+ dating apps, one platform has emerged not only as a contender but as a global force challenging the status quo. Grindr, being the largest and most popular gay mobile app in the world since its inception, faces a formidable competitor: Blued. Since its establishment in 2012 by entrepreneur Ma Baoli, also known as Geng Le, Blued has rapidly evolved into China’s largest gay dating app with aspirations to expand its influence globally.
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What is Blued?
Blued introduces a fresh perspective to not only the LGBTQIA+ dating scene but to the dating scene in general. It is not merely a platform for hookups or traditional dating; it offers a multifaceted experience. What sets Blued apart is its commitment to community-building. Users have the unique ability to go live from their profiles, fostering a sense of connection beyond the typical dating app interactions.
User Thitiwatt “Pete” Sirasjtakorn, who has been able to amass an impressive 60,000 followers on Blued, said in an interview for Rest of World, “I don’t want to be looking for sex all the time. When I feel lonely but I don’t want to talk with anybody, I just get on live streaming, and I feel there are many people staying with me.” Because of Blued’s global community, Sirasjtakorn is able to connect with like-minded individuals who value fostering friendships in a world dominated by “hookup culture.”
Blued is not just a dating app; it’s a platform that transcends the boundaries of most other dating apps. In 2018, Thitiwatt bravely went public about his positive HIV status to a livestream audience of over 1,000 viewers. Receiving amazing and overwhelming support from his Blued community, he went on to continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, sexual minorities, and people with HIV, not only on Blued but on Facebook and X as well.
Blued’s Challenges and Triumphs
Blued’s journey to its current prominence has been marked by challenges, notably in navigating China’s evolving stance on LGBTQIA+ content. The country’s tightening control over such content, coupled with increasing competition, poses uncertainties for Blued. Despite these challenges, Blued has demonstrated resilience, emerging not only as the largest gay dating app in China but also as a hub for the LGBTQIA+ community.
However, Blued’s success lies in its strategic alignment with state public health initiatives. By offering HIV prevention and sexual health services, the platform not only addresses critical health issues but also raises awareness about LGBTQIA+ concerns. While other LGBTQIA+ apps faced removal from Chinese app stores, Blued continued to thrive. In addition to its exponential growth, Blued has normalized talking about sexual health to protect yourself and others.
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Blued’s ambitions extend beyond where they currently lie. The company, listed on Nasdaq through its parent company BlueCity in 2020, initially faced profitability challenges. However, a strategic move involving Newborn Town, a Chinese company specializing in social and gaming apps, taking control of BlueCity in 2021 turned the tide. Improvements in moderation and user engagement led to Blued’s profitability.
With the backing of Newborn Town, Blued is poised for global expansion. The company recognizes the need to compete on an international scale and plans to achieve this by diversifying its offerings. Live streaming, voice chat rooms, and an Instagram-like feed are among the features aimed at providing users with a richer social experience.
Blued’s growth strategy does not only live online. The company actively engages with its user base through offline campaigns. The company also told Rest of World that it had been promoting the app through bar events in the United States and sponsorship of a drag convention in Los Angeles. This approach reflects an understanding that community-building is not solely restricted to online interactions.
With this plan to expand, BlueCity says that it plans to compete with other dating apps by offering more diverse social functions, such as live streaming, voice chat rooms, and an Instagram-like feed. The company also told Rest of World that it had been promoting the app through offline campaigns, including organizing bar events in the United States and sponsoring a drag convention in Los Angeles in May of this year.
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The Future is Blued!
Blued has emerged as a powerful force in the realm of LGBTQIA+ dating and community-building. Its unique features, commitment to advocacy, and global aspirations position it well for the title they are striving to reach. Blued is not just rewriting the script for gay dating but contributing to the broader conversation on LGBTQIA+ visibility and rights.
This article was written by Alyssa Micalizzi