For better or worse, Tinder and its clones have changed the way people date. But swiping through photos to find the hottest nearby hook-up partner isn't for everyone. Willow launches Tuesday in the App Store to give you another, less superficial way to meet people.
How it works: People love to answer questions, if the popularity of Quora and Yahoo! Answers is any indication. They also love to talk about themselves. Willow combines the two with a Q&A-style format designed to encourage conversation before a big photo reveal.
You can set a geolocation filter to answer questions only from people in your area, or you can chat with anyone in the world. Pick a category of questions you're interested in answering or just pick a question at random.
There are safe, routine questions ("What's your favorite movie?") and then there are ones to linger over: "A man approaches you at a gas station and gives you a book. You begin to read it and realize the book is about you. Do you finish it?"
The app's goal, said founder Michael Bruch, is to give strangers a new way to connect, whether for romance, friendship, or just as a fun way to pass the time.
"Tinder is very binary. It's useful for what it does, but whether or not I want to meet someone is more than a yes or no decision," Bruch said. "Use Quora or Yahoo! Answers and you see people answering questions and facilitating conversations with no tangible gain. I thought you could take that format of asking questions and apply it to something inter-personal. The best way to facilitate conversations is to ask a good question."
Once you determine that the person you're chatting with is worth a little more effort, you can choose to "reveal" your photo and proceed from there. Willow will soon add photo, video, and voice messaging to make chats a little more interesting, and an Android version of the app is on the way. And if you're not on the market, you can still browse through some of the app's more bizarre questions without asking any yourself.