Meeting people, making introductions, and building relationships is a hugely important part of life. It’s something we need to do every day in our social lives, careers, and romantic relationships.
In today’s world, a lot of this activity takes place online. It’s common to make connections with people on the internet and communicate before ever meeting up face to face. Social media sites, business networks like LinkedIn, and dating services are some of the places people can make digital introductions.
These can all be great places to meet people and strike up conversations, and their popularity reflects that. LinkedIn is thought to have around half a billion users, and the online dating market is worth $3 billion in the U.S. alone.
However, there are some big differences between meeting people through a screen and traditional introductions. Before the age of the internet, it was more common for introductions to be made in person, through friends or in a shared social setting, and the new environment comes with its own set of problems.
The problems with meeting online
The internet has made it much easier for complete strangers to get in touch, which is in many ways a good thing. But this kind of relationship is generally less successful — something especially noticeable in the world of online dating. Less than 1 in 4 online daters end up staying together, and only about 2% of the messages men send out actually get a response.
This is obviously disheartening for the users of these sites, and might be enough to put people off online dating and networking altogether.
There are a few reasons for these disappointing success rates. A lot of it could stem from a lack of trust between parties — people tend to feel distanced from those who they have no mutual friends with.
A contact request from a stranger, out of the blue, might not inspire feelings of warmth and friendship. In addition to a lack of any common ground, there’s often a safety issue, especially in the dating industry. Winning someone’s trust online is a big challenge.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Many of the issues involved in digital relationships are down to the services people use. Most of the platforms out there are centralized and driven by algorithms that aren’t particularly good at bringing the right people together.
Using shared contacts as the basis for connections is a better method — but how can this element be brought into the mix?
The answer to that could lie with blockchain technology.
Using blockchain to build relationships
Ponder is a new online service that is planning to use blockchain to overcome many of the problems involved in online dating and networking. At first they aim to focus on the dating industry, but later versions of the platform will include business relationships and other forms of networking.
The service will use blockchain to build a decentralized network, with no central party in control. Users will be able to suggest matches between their single friends in the app, and if a matched couple feels a spark they will pay a fee, half of which will be awarded to their matchmaker. If the couple ends up getting married, their matchmaker will get a hefty $1000 prize.
The platform will use its own token to issue these rewards and manage connections between its users. It’ll also be possible to build groups within the app that are based around shared interests. Users who enjoy rock climbing or jazz music will be able to meet people with similar hobbies.
This is how Ponder hope to overcome many of the problems involved in online networking. They’ll provide a real basis for connection, using shared contacts to use their own human judgement instead of relying on complex algorithms and computerized matching.
And users are likely to feel better about suggestions, knowing that they come from real friends and not just sequences of code. They might feel more trusting towards matches and less inclined to react with hostility or suspicion.
The Ponder beta version is evidence that this approach really works. They found that match rates for people brought together by friends were 6 times higher than the industry average, and even through non-friend introductions was three times as successful.
The service will also focus on gamifying the networking and dating experience, thanks to different levels and fun interfaces that will keep users engaged and entertained. It could help bring a dash of flavor and fun to an activity that is all too often considered boring and chore-like.