More and more Americans are meeting their potential partners online. Problem is, there’s precious little you can do digitally to extend the courtship before meeting in-person.
You can exchange text messages, a few photos, and even share a video call, but all that requires an intense focus on one-to-one communication. There’s no mutual interest being shared, no evening’s entertainment to generate conversation and take the pressure off for a while. Instead, it can feel a bit like an extended job interview or police background check.
If we can meet online, why can’t we date online? At least until both parties are comfortable enough to take the plunge into a real world venue.
The answer is we can—if we repurpose the new breed of social media that allows shared viewing of live streaming media. If such an app—like the recently relaunched Airtime—can let friends watch a live concert together online, it can also let us take a date to that same gig.
Airtime Group Video
Airtime is essentially a shared video chat room app for smartphones. The latest offering from Napster and Facebook hero Sean Parker, it’s designed as an online living room where friends can gather to share photos, video, and audio in real-time. The app was initially launched in 2012 but failed to function consistently or find an audience. Now, the new version has shifted focus away from the original’s “chat with strangers” theme and is instead built around pre-existing real world connections.
Its defining feature is its ability to share media simultaneously among an online video chat group. Partnered with a range of multimedia content providers—including YouTube and YouTube Live, Vimeo, Vevo, Spotify, and SoundCloud—video callers can integrate their favorite songs, video clips, and live streaming content into a group video call as if it were just another chat window.
Airtime isn’t the first or only app to allow shared live streaming within a social network, but it does a better job of balancing the incoming entertainment with maintaining a personal link between two people, thus providing a better first date experience than its rivals.
WebRTC Live Media Streaming
Google was the first to demonstrate this ability to add video to a live chat. In 2011, it merged two of its more popular online entities to let Hangouts users watch YouTube clips together. You can still do this today, and you can also reverse the process and live stream your Hangout on YouTube. However, you are limited to watching only YouTube content, and, as cute as kitten videos are, it’s not very romantic to ask a date to watch hours of LOL cats with you.
The same restriction applies to veteran video calling app ooVoo. The developers’ quest to find a younger audience led to the implementation of live YouTube streaming among video callers, but they haven’t added any other contributors.
WebRTC browser-based app Rabb.it, on the other hand, has made all the right shared streaming connections, with on-demand sites like Netflix and Hulu. However, its presentation relegates users to small bubbles of chat windows at the base of the screen, which reduces its effectiveness as a dating platform since you can barely make each other out.
Airtime is also WebRTC-based, but it uses the technology to standardize the streaming experience of its users by placing a media server in the middle of the connection to act as a go-between and ease the processing burden on smartphone CPUs. At any rate, it keeps video callers on the same level as the streaming media, so our fledgling couple can keep an eye on each other while still enjoying the performance playing out before them.
A Virtual First Date
All these apps can create an online first date destination that’s as personal as a face-to-face conversation but as safe and non-committal as an old-fashioned chat room.
After the initial introductions are made, you can invite your date to join you in a video chat room of your own creation. If you’re cautious about sharing personal information, just create a standalone room your date can access via a simple link—and if things go badly, remember not to use that same room or profile again.
Once inside the room, you can select whatever media you’re mutually interested in and watch it together—all the while retaining the ability to see and hear each other.
For example, last year you could have watched the entire first weekend of the Coachella festival from the comfort of your own video chat room via YouTube Live. As far as first dates go, that’s a pretty memorable experience and one you’re not likely to replicate in the real world with someone you’ve just met online.
If you’re looking for something less intense, you could check out a live performance from the London Symphony Orchestra. Again, you’re not flying to London with a new beau, but if he says he’s a classical music buff, here’s an inexpensive way to call his bluff.
And so the possibilities go on. Country music. Jazz. Foos. There’s a whole world of spectacular first dates ready to be enjoyed risk-free, hassle-free, and just plain free—if you can bend the intentions of the new breed of social networks to suit the convenience of online dating.