Online dating is popular, but for women, it's also a chore. Not only do most dating sites require more than one profile photo up front, but there are also lengthy questionnaires to fill out when signing up. There is also the fact that women on dating sites often get sexist and harassing messages from men.
One Seattle-based startup wants to change that. Siren, a new dating app, puts women in charge of online dating. The app allows women to control who sees their photos and who communicates with them.
After navigating the world of other online dating sites, Susie Lee and Katrina Hess created Siren specifically for women like themselves, creating an online dating space where women can feel safe and comfortable.
Lee has horror stories about time spent on other dating sites. Because she's Korean American, she often received harassing messages. She also found that after signing up for OKCupid, a popular dating website, some of her personal information ended up public via a Google image search.
"I didn't feel safe on these sites. I felt really exposed," says Lee. "Especially as an Asian woman, you put your picture up there and suddenly like 'Asian fantasy' would come up."
Lee and Hess are counting on the fact that many women have similar experiences with dating apps and websites. In 2013, Pew Research polled online dating users and found that 42 percent of women on online dating sites received messages that made them uncomfortable.
Lee and Hess also feel that even Tinder, which only allows communication between two people who've followed each other, doesn't go far enough to protect women's privacy and make them feel safe in that environment.
One important feature of Siren is its policy about user photos. A woman's photo is only shared once she feels comfortable with a male user and his profile. And only one photo is ever uploaded. This protects her privacy and focuses the online dating experience more on communication, as well as questions answered by each user of the app.
Siren also gets rid of the lengthy questionnaire in lieu of questions that change daily, as well as video challenges.
Siren allows women to post what they want at any given time to men they're interested in.
"Siren's touchstones always reference what I discern works in real life," says Lee. "Give women the chance to send subtle cues of interest, men to show off a little of who they are, friends to recommend good men and people to make each other smile."
Siren is currently in private beta as an iPhone app, but an Android version, along with a nationwide rollout, is also planned.