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Peter Thiel’s dating app is already struggling

Peter Thiel is a major backer behind the Right Stuff. Credit: Getty

October 3, 2022 - 5:13pm

Last week, The Right Stuff, a dating app backed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, came to cell phones everywhere. The app is currently invite-only as part of what appears to be a gradual rollout of the service.

The point of the app, as explained in some risible commercials featuring lookalike women bemoaning the state of modern masculinity, is to provide a forum through which women can meet men who want children, “alphas,” and people who aren’t liberals or Leftists. In its current iteration, it allows only for heterosexual dating, meaning Thiel himself would be out of luck were he to attempt to use it to find love. I was, however, unable to verify how the dating interface actually works because my request to use the service was never approved. This might be because I marked that I “have kids,” which is true, since I’ve been married for over a decade. 

The Right Stuff’s interface leaves a lot to be desired…

What I did see in the app was the usual slow-as-sludge processing that has consistently bedevilled Right-leaning apps and platforms. Given the involvement of Thiel — author of Zero to One and regarded as a start-up guru even by people who dislike his politics — I expected something better than an animated loading screen that took two-three seconds to clear, fill-in fields that responded with a second of lag as each keystroke was entered, and a five-photo gallery that struggled to load each selected picture. Although no security breaches or data dumps have occurred along the lines of what happened to Parler and Truth Social, it remains to be seen how secure The Right Stuff is, too.

As an idea, a Right-wing dating service isn’t preposterous: such apps and websites already exist for people of different races, ideologies, and religions, as well as for individuals looking for hook-ups, flings, and oral sex. One problem appears to affect all of them, though: the gender ratio skews heavily toward men, and female users benefit from a buyer’s market. It remains to be seen how many female users — who are quite clearly the target of the advertisements — will sign up for The Right Stuff.

To an extent, the problems described here are ones that Right-wing women do report experiencing. Dana Perino, former press secretary to ex-president George W. Bush, complained about this a half-decade earlier: “There just weren’t many I was interested in around Washington [D.C.]. Most of the guys didn’t look like they’d ever worked outside a day in their lives — soft hands, limp handshakes, pale skin, and pudgy middles.”

Part of the problem is the app interface, to be sure, but the other part is marketing — the field I’ve worked in for the past decade. Various Right-wing acquaintances of mine offered suggestions of their own for improving The Right Stuff’s presentation, with some arguing that the app should be turned into a sort of arranged marriage or “married-at-first-sight” service — an  interesting notion but one that would likely thin the user base. Another acquaintance said that the advertisements should’ve leaned into the absurd, with bombastic action-movie effects and someone like ageless Chuck Norris or Putin apologist Steven Seagal narrating a wild, Die Hard-style dating experience. 

In any event, the app — which is banking that conservative influencers, such as former Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s sister Ryann McEnany, can drive users to the service — seems to be suffering an early identity crisis. Much of Thiel’s book Zero to One deals with the necessity of ensuring your innovation achieves a monopoly in a particular field, but for now, The Right Stuff seems like one more copycat dating-app venture among many. And even if The Right Stuff were a holy grail app, dating has already been disrupted enough by cultural change that no digital silver bullet is going to return society to whenever the app’s designers think life was so much better. 

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work


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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

Is it meant to ‘return society’ to some prior state, or just bring people of a similar outlook into contact? The latter, I’d have thought.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Why on earth has this anodyne comment garnered 12 down votes?