LAS VEGAS—A few years ago, the makers of Tinder realized (correctly) that LinkedIn is annoying. It didn’t matter that their expertise was in making a dating app. Like any entrepreneurial crew of tech dudes, they decided to create a new startup that would overcome the lingering challenges of professional networking.
On Monday, Tinder unveiled a new app called Ripple, which the company christened at a press event at CES. Ripple is supposed to be like Tinder, but for networking with other professionals in your industry. The founder and CEO of Ripple, Ryan Ogle, was formerly the chief technology officer of Tinder, and hopes the new app will a mobile-first and way-less-obnoxious version of LinkedIn, the often-mocked Microsoft-owned professional networking site perhaps best known these days for the deluge of emails its members receive.
Ripple is going to look a lot like Tinder, where prospective connections can swipe left or right on other users to decide if they want to connect. Tinder learned that people like the gamification of swiping, which is why Ripple is keeping that component, says Ogle. Each profile page will have a large photo of the user, but instead of just seeing their face and their location when swiping around people’s pages, it will also displays information about your skills, education, location, and whatever interests you list. Ripple also has ways for people to create events. And like Tinder, the new app will only allow people to communicate with you if you approve the connection; it will focus, in part, on connecting people who are near you.
The idea for Ripple, according to Ogle, came from a realization during his time at Tinder that he and his other co-workers never actually met the people working at a startup that was in the neighboring office in their building, even though they’d been stationed next to each other for about a year and a half. Ogle said he lamented the fact that their neighbors ended up moving out and he never got to wish them well or say goodbye. Ripple, Ogle says, is supposed to remedy this by surfacing people in the app with whom you share professional interests and are also nearby. It can also purportedly help at professional networking events, since it will show you others who are there who share your interests. In other words, no more relying on happenstance introductions or ruing potentially missed connections. If you’re in the same room as your perfect future co-founder, the thinking goes, now you’ll find them.
Ogle is right. In our age of social networking, people have become worse at just simply saying hello to those they don’t already know. (Why didn’t Tinder workers just introduce themselves to their next-door neighbors? Fine, blame Facebook.) It’s one reason why concentrated use of social media can paradoxically make people feel more alienated and alone.
But one has to wonder if another social networking app is really the proper remedy here.
Sure, Linkedin isn’t great, definitely needs to be optimized for smartphones, and updating one’s LinkedIn profile feels more like a chore than something you might be excited to do. It makes sense for a rival to come forward with a better app. But envisioning the next LinkedIn as a way to ensure we get better at talking to the people who are nearby, like our neighbors or people at a party, feels iffy at best. Perhaps a better solution to maximizing the connections of people who are at the same event or the office next door would be to just be nicer. Talk to people in the elevator! Take off your headphones! Ask to be introduced to people, and maybe take your eyes off of your phone for a minute.
One has to wonder further if making a professional networking tool more like a dating app, with prominently displayed photos of people and location-based connections that can be accepted or rejected with a swipe, is really the right product to launch now in our #metoo moment, much of which focuses on workplace sexual harassment and the objectification of fellow employees. Whatever you make of those issues, Ripple became available for download on iPhone and Android Monday morning.