As more gay people lead open and integrated lives - chatting freely on Facebook and the like about gay friends and relationships, while going out for drinks with all their mates regardless of sexuality and gender rather than hang around in pickup bars - lost along the way is that feeling of just occasionally being in the majority and not having to explain their motivations each time from beginning to end. That sits oddly with the new realm of hookup apps, which serve a purpose but can feel furtive, with little known in advance about someone willing to meet.
LGBT+ websites and social groups have come, gone or simply limp on, some of which served in their time a social function every inch as important as the means of finding a partner. Among those established in the 1990s, two stood out: Gaydar and the less sexually-oriented OUT site that later became OUTeverywhere.
Jason Finch, founder of OUT in 1995, is a top-flight developer and tech entrepreneur who in recent years has worked largely on other technology projects in the business-to-business world. He is now ready to remould the world he created, in new form for what is literally a new generation. Successful and pioneering as OUT was for its time, to set it aside from what came before his intended new creation will be called GMEET.
GMEET is about creating lasting real world friendships and deep personal relationships, a new generation of social space for the LGBT+ community that welcomes straight friends too and aims to build genuine connections. Conceived to be the antithesis of the hookup apps and swipe dating apps of the online world in 2018, GMEET's concept is built on a solid background of understanding social interactions and blending online/offline networking long before "social media" was a term. It will bring a totally fresh approach to the way LGBT+ people can discover and build local and global connections.
Jason's University degree was Artificial Intelligence and he's passionate about using technology to improve people's lives and bring people together: so his vision is that GMEET will use machine learning algorithms to introduce people to others on their wavelength in ways as simple and intuitive as possible. It will learn about individuals and help them to find people, activities, events and chat groups with which they're most likely to want to engage.
GMEET brings a totally new and unique approach to social profiles that will enable people to store multiple profiles and linked 'identities' so that they can feel safe and have any or all of a friendship profile, a dating-related profile, a work-based profile and a 'play' profile.
There will be a trust network and identity verification options so people know for sure who they are talking to. It will enable people unsure of their sexuality or gender identity to join in a secure supportive space and to later choose to come out and explore the rest of the community if they wish. GMEET will enable LGBT+ groups, charities and events organisers to join and promote their activities, as well as enable individuals to create real world events and invite people to them.
GMEET comes from the evolution of OUT, the world's first true online social network for gay men where friendships and real world events were key to bringing people together. This was created by Jason in 1995 as out.org.uk and then OUTintheUK and later became OUTeverywhere, also welcoming women into the "social club". OUT started life as a hobby and developed more seriously through the early 2000s.
It ultimately grew to a peak active membership of over 100,000 and it resulted in many hundreds of relationships that have stood the test of time, and many thousands of friendships which still exist to this day. Members organised events as diverse as theme park days, cocktail parties, murder weekends, ten-pin bowling, live music gigs, cinema nights, week-long holidays abroad, short city breaks, theatre trips, dance club nights and 4x4 off-roading. Jason himself met his partner through OUT back in 2008 and they will celebrate 10 years together this June. But a lot of the principles of OUT are based on the way gay life was 15-20 years ago and it never adapted to a mobile world, existing long before smartphones were invented and everyone had the internet in their hands. Development of the concept ceased long before the internet was accessible on a smartphone device and before wireless internet was commonplace.
Time marches on and, although loads of gay apps have come along and other gay websites have come and gone in the last decade, these have all been mainly "hookup" apps. While "coming out" is a different experience these days and in many areas of the world many more people are open about being gay and have openly gay friends, it is still a major struggle for a lot of people and there is still a need for a supportive and safe space for gay people - but crucially also their friends, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity.
There is still nowhere online mainly focused on enabling gay people to meet someone where the emphasis is on shared interests and building friendships - whether or not they want that to lead to something more.
Also, new studies show that today's major social networks are in fact isolating and can foster loneliness and feelings of envy or inadequacy.
In contrast, OUT developed and harnessed an approach that lead to far more engaging face-to-face social interaction, a more inclusive and enriching experience than today's modern social media platforms. GMEET will build on key elements of OUT's successful model of forging friendships. Jason feels there's still a place for an approach that unites and blends the online and offline worlds of LGBT+ people and their friends and which is focused more on fostering friendships and bringing people with shared interests together; one that is a much smaller and tighter knit community of people than major "generic" social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on.
The aim is to build GMEET to be a more modern, inclusive and mobile-first version of what OUT started life as back in 1995; to be a supportive and friendly space for LGBT+ people of whatever sexuality and gender identity to come together, welcoming their straight friends too, to build networks, create or go to social events, and to generally be a positive force in the world.
A new concept in social media interaction will be built, and GMEET will be one of the first "social clubs" to come from it. There may also be more niche enterprises built on the same platform aimed at different sectors within the LGBT+ community, or other areas of society, but the focus for this campaign is very much on GMEET and creating a brand new space built on the principles of the early OUT.
The emphasis will always be on your friends and new connections and stuff you've said you want to hear about, rather than commercial advertisers and there will be no annoying intrusive pop-ups, video plays, game requests, quizzes and scrolling through loads of commercial content designed just to be viral.
This Crowdfunder campaign is designed to raise some initial funding to employ a small team of trusted professional developers to build a prototype of the application and to enable people who have no concept or experience of OUT to understand how it's so very different - and to build a marketing video and more formal business plan once the prototype is available. It will also help to cover all associated costs with hosting, internet bandwidth and running the prototype for a period of time.
People donating to this project can opt for various pledge rewards. All those pledging £500 or above will, in the event that the prototype is a success, be shown as members of the "Founding 500+ Club" on the GMEET website (if they would like to be) and that club may give exclusive offers and priority on all sorts of fun stuff at a later date.
All pledgers will be given the opportunity to secure at least one username/ID in order of first pledged/first served and before GMEET is open to everyone else. This is exclusive to Crowdfunders!
You are welcome to donate to GMEET without requiring any reward. Please feel free. It's not assumed you will become a member or actively use GMEET services if you donate today. If you would like a reward for your pledge, select the appropriate option: the date on all of them is set as August 2018 but this isn't certain - the more donations received the more people can work on the project and get it to prototype stage sooner. Events may not happen for a while after launch, and we need a proper testing phase first with those pledgers given private invitations, so any vouchers for events may come later still. EVERYONE who pledges will be listed in a special place on GMEET forever (if they want to be, privacy respected!).
This project offers rewards in return for your donation.