By now, we all know the story. Bang With Friends is a Facebook app, coded by a few college kids in a weekend, that facilitates no-risk hookups with people on your friends list. You say you’d like to bang them, and no one ever knows, unless they happen to say that they’d like to bang you, too.
And as much as we all laughed at the idea and its shameless, frat-boy marketing, its premise of one-button interaction has struck a chord. Since launching a few weeks ago with no marketing budget to speak of, half a million users have clicked their “down to bang” button 9 million times (or about 15 times apiece). The app has facilitated as many as 100,000 hookups.
“As much of a joke and an unabashed, risque approach as we’d taken, there’s a larger vision,” a developer who goes simply by the name of C tells me. “We really think this is a much more realistic way of how the younger generation is working.” Even still, in an interview earlier this week, C was quick to point out his platform’s big shortcoming. Once users have created their bang list, most people have no more use for the app. There’s nothing else to do but refresh Gmail for the notification of a match. So the team is rolling out a series of new updates focused on the product’s long tail. And its pièce de résistance is every bit as intriguing as the app’s original premise.
“It’s like a Klout score for your weekly sexiness,” he says.
As part of the update, Bang With Friends is adding richer profiles, pulling several images from your Facebook feed. Along with all these clicks comes the opportunity for analytics. While viewing data will remain anonymous, Bang With Friends will be providing a weekly score for each user, generated from the sorts of pageviews they’re drawing. “If nothing else, it gives you an idea that people were at least curious about you, that they didn’t get over the hump–no pun intended–or that maybe they’re viewing a certain photo of yours more than others,” C says.
Scores are sharable, but going public with your number is an opt-in scenario. (Or it was supposed to be. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart both have staggeringly large public numbers at the moment that they probably didn’t authorize. Also, see your invite, Jon. Thx.) The idea is to add a feature that you can boast about, but if you strike out, no one is any the wiser. In this regard, your bangability score is actually a lot more humane than Klout. But checking your score is just the hook of a larger vision for the platform, C tells me, that morphs the hook-up service into a more legitimate dating site.
“We see it as being more than Bang With Friends. We want to redefine ‘bang’ so it can be something like, ‘I want to meet up, I’m down to hang rather than just down to bang.’” So moving forward, the app will actually have a “down to hang” button alongside the “down the bang” button. A skeptic might say that Bang With Friends is selling out before landing their first major investor, trading in their social media key to become another Match.com. But C disagrees.
“We’re not trying to form it into something that’s more socially acceptable, we’re trying to expand the use case,” he maintains. “We’re definitely not getting rid of the bang part. We’re not at all ashamed of that.” The more I consider the potential of Bang With Friends as a quasi-legitimate dating site, the more the idea actually makes a perverse amount of sense. It’s going to attract a certain cohort–just like a ChristianMingle or eHarmony does–and even when that cohort generally wants to hang, you’ll know that they’re like-minded in being open to bang. But whether or not their users will still be so likely to click that “down to bang” option with another, more conservative choice in sight? That’s the question. And if that’s lost, so is the strangely alluring id-scratcher that is Bang With Friends.