Monday, May 20

Kink Goes Dark After Troubled Relaunch of Feeld Dating App

What happens when “a dating app for the curious” — one that welcomes users who are into polyamory, nonmonogamy, voyeurism and kinks of all kinds — is practically unusable for an entire weekend? What happens, in other words, to a threesome deferred?

After months of buildup, the dating app Feeld debuted a splashy new look on Friday. “Everything’s new, from back end to front end, plus an entirely novel look and feel,” the company said in a statement announcing the redesigned platform. “Re-enter the new Feeld.”

However, what was waiting for users, many of them paying members, was a flurry of technical issues that kept many from being able to log in, view likes, and read and respond to messages. Some users described more serious issues, such as having their private profiles become publicly visible in spite of their preferences. Nearly a week after the rocky rollout, Feeld was still contending with these technical problems, according to the company, which said that it had fixed many of the “initial issues.”

“Our entire team is working around the clock to resolve the situation with speed,” Ana Kirova, Feeld’s chief executive, said in a statement to The New York Times on Tuesday. “And, although we cannot share a definitive timeline right now, this is our sole priority at the moment in order to meet our community’s needs.”

According to many accounts posted on social media, the app was functionally useless for much of the weekend and into the following week. So, what sort of romantic connections were snuffed out in those dark hours when Feeld was out to pasture?

“I messaged someone just before the update and then I was like, ‘Ugh, this is such bad timing,’” Frank Rodriguez, who lives in Philadelphia, said in a phone interview. He was able to see his direct messages after the update, but given the widespread issues, he wasn’t sure what to make of his unanswered messages: technical difficulties, or a lack of interest?

Mr. Rodriguez, 33, described the woman he was messaging before the app updated as “a cute girl.”

“She just seemed cool,” he said.

As did many others, Mr. Rodriguez took to social media to air his grievances about the changes and bugs. Some demanded compensation or prorated refunds for the days the app was experiencing issues. Others lamented missed connections and disrupted date plans, with one user complaining pointedly that Feeld “messed up” a threesome he had in the works.

“I’m still waiting for her to log back in and realize the app is working again,” the person posted on X, punctuating his message with the side-eye emoji.

As a new week dawned, users were still having trouble using the app. “I straight up have not been able to interact with anything in the app since the update,” one user wrote on Reddit. “Can’t like or dislike anyone, can’t even choose to log out.”

“The app is basically just taking up space on my Home Screen now,” he added.

Fortunately for James Heck, a dentist in Asheville, N.C., he had already exchanged contact information with the two people he was messaging on the app before things went south.

“I have their private phone numbers, so it hasn’t impacted me connecting, but I’m sure if that was the case, it would be frustrating for sure,” Mr. Heck, 44, who pays for Feeld’s premium tier, said in a phone interview. He, along with many others, said he hadn’t been able to gain access to his premium features since the update.

Last Thursday, the day before the platform’s rerelease, Feeld reported that the app would be taken offline for updates. Although the overhaul was supposed to take just several hours, the app was completely unavailable for more than a day.

When it came back online on Friday evening, the company announced that the rebuilt app would feature “limitless” changes on gender identification, the ability to send video messages, the use of cities to showcase location instead of distance and “tidier” changes to the app’s navigation.

“I can now no longer see how far away some folks are, can’t see who liked me and do not get pings,” Nicholas Smith, a 31-year-old living in Denver, wrote in an email. “Google Store still says I have a subscription until mid-January. Google Store is not doing a refund.”

On Sunday, the company acknowledged that it was encountering several issues, including faulty account access, the inability to see connections and messages and reports of deleted accounts. Feeld also revisited the updates to its location feature after numerous complaints that it revealed users’ locations with too much specificity — displaying their current cities, for instance, rather than how far away they were.

“We heard your feedback, and have updated this feature as a short-term solution while we continue to refine the best, long-term fix,” the company said in a statement.

Emma, 36, who lives in England and described herself as “a kinky person,” joined Feeld in 2021 but left it shortly after she got into a relationship with someone she met on the app. She said she had a good experience with the app because it “always felt very safe for people who are open to anything ‘nonnormative.’” Emma, who requested to be identified by only her given name because of her job, rejoined Feeld about three weeks ago after her breakup.

“It’s the only app that allows you to present that constellation of yourself to people,” she said, adding that she was unsure if she would be willing to pay for the app again even if the issues were resolved.

“Then again, there are so few other options in terms of apps that have a decent user base and provide this kind of environment,” she said of the bleak landscape for nontraditional daters. “I think a lot of people feel really, really sad and kind of hopeless.”

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