Worry not! Try Blued
Yes, I know. When I feel down, I also frequently check the apps to see who might be lurking nearby, hoping there will be some cute young guys interested in meeting up with an older foreigner. Hasn’t it always been this way since the dawn of the internet age?
For me, the first gay social networking sites I recall were gay.com, gaydar, a Thai site whose name I have long forgotten, and then eventually gay romeo. Gay.com was the most productive until I started a bit of travelling around Asia. It was then that gaydar seemed to come into its own. I have many fond memories of encounters over several years in Taiwan and Japan exclusively from these two sites.
Now gay.com is dead and gaydar, at least in Asia, has lost much of its lustre. With the advent of smartphones and Pads, the scene has changed dramatically. I can think of few gays who do not have Jack’d, Grindr and Hornet on their apps list.
One Asian site founded in 2001 that provided a fantastic entry into the Chinese diaspora was fridae.com, somewhat surprisingly run out of gay-unfriendly Singapore. fridae soon became Asia’s largest English-language LGBT web portal which by 2010 boasted 500,000 users across Asia, mostly younger Chinese but also with a lot of their western admirers.
Fridae offered additional services for a modest annual subscription and for a while that modest US$50 was well worth it – at least I found it so. Then five years ago the site was taken over by a commercial company. By taking in crassy advertising and changing some of its policies, it has now gone so far downhill and lost so many members it is something of a joke. A sad footnote is that fridae’s pioneering founder, Stuart Koe, was recently jailed in Singapore for almost six years, allegedly for selling his ex-partner two different types of drug.
Fast-forward a few years from their introduction and the buzzword for the app controllers is no longer growth. Now it is revenue. Having invested in setting up and running the apps, the founders want to cash in. So it is that on Grindr, Hornet and Jack’d I am constantly peppered with ads. The number of profiles and photos I can see has also been restricted – in some cases to only 50 – to encourage me to take out a subscription. Sorry guys! I’m not yet prepared to cough up, as long as there are other alternatives.
The latest app on the market comes surprisingly from the country you’d expect least likely to tolerate an LGBT social network organization – China. Founded only in 2012, the free Blued app is now, less surprisingly, the largest in the world with an estimated 27 million users.
A friend recommended I download Blued because its reach quickly spread to Thailand and then several other countries including Taiwan and Singapore. It’s also available in a variety of languages other than Chinese and Thai, including Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish and French. It has recently opened a new headquarters in London to allow for expansion into more European markets.
VIDEO: Cute Blued Promotion Video
Downloading Blued is easy. Getting the app to work is a bit more complicated, certainly more so than the others. After inserting your log-in name and password, it’s best to simply try it and see how you get along. Understandably given the social conventions most of the guys in China don’t insert real photos and often give fictitious locations! But on their profile pages you are given the actual distance between the two of you, their basic stats and their sexual preference – in this case 1 denoting top and 0 bottom! V is fairly obvious!
Some guys are happy to upload lots of photos on their profile page, especially those outside China. If you start chatting with a guy and know that he is in China, he will happily send you his photos. Sometimes these will be only viewable for 5 seconds. But in my experience they will always be real.
Why do I like Blued? First I am really into younger Chinese and Asian guys and this gives me a vast choice. When I am at home in Thailand, I can access well over 600 profiles – and these are almost all guys who will be less than 5 kms from me!
Second, although I am still working out how to fine-tune my location so I can access only guys based in, say, Shanghai, my profile is available to all 27 million users. So each day I am getting clicks from a host of guys from both Thailand and China. Indeed, older westerners seem to be especially popular in China. After chatting to someone I like on Blued, I switch over to WeChat where he will not get lost amongst all the others. Both Blued and WeChat are great because they offer instant translation, not only between Chinese and English for contacts in China but also between English and Thai for guys I chat with here. The Chinese/English translations can sometimes be a little strange. Cock comes out as chicken, and fuck as plug. But you quickly get into the swing of things.
Third, although most Chinese guys have their names in Chinese at the top of their profiles, once you know those names and their locations, you can click on a little rose-like icon at the top right of their profile page. In the Set Remarks box that opens up, I then type in name and location in English. Very handily, in future that information heads their profile instead of the Chinese name. Easy!
Fourth, there is a system of verified photos to prove that the one you are being sent is actually of the guy you chat with. Blued’s moderation team compare a 10-second in-app video that you make and then compare it against the photo you post on your profile page.
Fifth, as with some other apps, you can go ‘live’ on video, send recordings, organise small groups, create a community, and more that will clearly take me some weeks to master.
VIDEO: Blued Pool Party Celebrating the Launch of Blued in Thailand
In the meantime, I can truthfully say that in the three months I have had the app, I have had far more contacts than from all the other apps put together. Of those in Thailand I have met several and had some great encounters. Naturally not all those contacting you will expect any real hook-up. In China I now have nice friends aged between 18 and 30 in cities as far apart as Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian, Lanzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and others! All want to meet but are aware that the chances are slim. Yet I know for sure I could make a three-month trip around parts of China and have company virtually every night!
Even better, two of my new friends are visiting Bangkok next month for Songkran and we have arranged to meet up!
The extraordinary thing about Blued is that it was founded by a once-married police officer who for years had been running a secret website in China for gay people. When the authorities discovered it, he was fired and lost his family. He then decided to create Blued. His company now employs a staff of 200 in its Beijing offices.
Even better for Blued than the number of its members is their demographics. More than half the users have a college degree, a point I can confirm as nearly all my chats are with guys in professional posts or finishing university. And their income is douhle the national average. One of the Blued investors is The Beijing News, part of China’s state-run media. With international investors lining up, the app’s future seems rosy.
China is actually more heavily involved with the international gay apps business than you are probably aware. Two years ago Grindr was sold to a China-owned gaming company. More recently Hornet announced a tie-up with Blued. Can Jack’d be far behind?
With Blued currently valued at over US$600 million, its founder, Ma Baoli, is one man who will be feeling far from blue!
Publisher’s Note: There are many other gay apps in different parts of the world. The ones cited in the article above are based on the writer’s own experience.