Reimagining Dating App UX: A Fireside Chat with Stream and Feeld at GDI London
In September 2023, Stream sponsored GDI London and held a fireside chat with Enterprise chat customer and dating app company Feeld at the event. This is the transcription of the interview.
EM: Hello, everyone! My name is Elaine McGlaughlin (EM). I’m a customer success manager at Stream— the fastest-growing global chat API company. We power chat, voice, and video messaging to fuel safe and intimate conversations and build help connections for dating and social connections apps.
This is Ross Gibson (RG), Director of Engineering at Feeld. Feeld is a dating app for open-minded individuals and was actually founded here in London in 2014. Feeld has grown 100% YoY since then. It is fully a remote, global company that drives all of its revenue back into developing its product and community. As of today, 35% of Feeld users engage with the app as a couple, and 50% of its user base identifies as non-heterosexual.
Thank you, Ross, for joining us today. I’m really excited that you’re here. It’s been exciting to see Feeld’s growth. I’d love it if you could share what the chat and communication experience was prior to integrating Stream and what it was like post-integration.
RG: It was in 2018 that we started working with Stream. Prior to that, we managed our chat in-house. We were responsible for doing everything inside the app. We were using a web-based API, not an SDK like we’re using now.
Chat is the core functionality of our product. It’s where our users engage and connect with each other and can go on to have IRL relationships. With our previous provider, chat wasn’t really working for us, but it was such an integral part of our app we didn’t want to risk ripping it out and trying to replace it. It was one of those things we never got to but knew that one day we’d need to do it.
Ultimately, our hand was forced when our previous chat provider closed down. We knew we had to do it then, so we set the dev teams to work and assessed the market to see what was available. We found Stream and did a feature comparison, as we needed to reach parity with our previous chat provider. Other questions we asked ourselves during the process were how easy is the documentation to read, how can we interact with the APIs, how maintainable is it, how quickly are new features released, and what’s the relationship like, meaning, if we reach out, will you respond?
We started testing providers with our dev team—hackathon-style. We basically asked them how quickly could they get each chat to work, and Stream came out on top. It was then we made the huge decision to rip our existing chat out and rearchitect it. We’ve actually done that two more times after integrating Stream, too. When you released your React Native SDK, we integrated that, and when you released your UI components, we reworked our design system. And we’re really enjoying the relationship.
EM: That’s great to hear. We really pride ourselves on keeping that close relationship, we have a shared Slack channel between our support engineers and your team. So we have that real-time communication when resolving any issues and can easily keep you apprised of any new news or updates on the product roadmap.
RG: Yeah, so we love to utilize that channel. Being fully remote, we have engineers, product managers, etc., all around the world and in different time zones. You’re always super responsive in that channel. We can always reach out with questions, and an engineer from your side will jump in and advise and help us. It’s definitely a really valuable thing.
EM: I wanted to speak to one of the questions I got last night from another conference attendee. It was about chat being so central to their user experience and how their team feels so much ownership over it, so why would they pass it over to a third party? Could you speak to your own experience placing that trust in Stream?
RG: Chat is integral to the product. It’s how people build connections and decide who they want to meet in real life. But, personally, I feel we’re more about developing unique features that help make the connections. Our development team likes to focus on trying to get that right.
Handing over the bulk of responsibility to Stream frees up a lot of time for us. You mentioned how you're always iterating and adding new features—if we managed chat ourselves, we would have to do that. But now, we’re able to pick and choose what you offer and build new product ideas and A/B test around it. So, handing chat over to you is really beneficial, as it allows us to focus on developing other areas of the product.
EM: That’s awesome. It’s been really exciting to follow Feeld’s growth over the years. We’ve recently connected about moderation and helping you continue to scale, I mean, Feeld users sent over 62 million messages in August alone! I would love to hear about what’s on the roadmap for Feeld in 2024.
RG: There’s definitely a lot on the roadmap; not sure how much I can say here. One thing I can share is our plan to integrate Auto Moderation from Stream, this is a really good example of our partnership. You reached out to tell us it was coming, we were able to have calls with you, we beta-tested it, and your product team showed us what could be done, and how to integrate it into our system.
EM: We’re excited to continue partnering and iterating on ideas in the coming months. Now, we would like to open it up to the audience for anyone to ask questions to Ross or myself.
Audience Question 1: Who owns the messaging data if Stream manages chat?
RG: The data is stored on Stream’s servers. But being a dating app, what sets us apart from a normal messaging app is the connections. Feeld owns the connection data, we know who is connected with whom. Stream only steps in to handle the messaging between those connections, but Stream doesn't know who’s connected with who
EM: The customer will always have full access to the data, we store the content of the messages, but we are blind to the connections.
Audience Question 2: Do you use Stream for 1:1 or group messaging?
RG: We see a good mix of both. We have a lot of 1:1 connections, but catering to the market of couples in open relationships, we see those open into 3-4 people groups. We can support group chats of up to 1K participants, beyond that, it becomes difficult to manage the push notifications. We host events across the world where people attend and socialize, they’d be invited to a group chat, and we see lots of engagement.
EM: At Stream, we power 1:1, one-to-many, group chat, live streaming, etc., so there are several variations of how we could help fuel conversations.
Audience Question 3: Do you actually moderate every conversation between users, or is it only when something has been flagged in a conversation?
RG: It’s a little bit of both. We are currently beta-testing Auto Moderation, but you can customize what you are looking for. For example, if I wanted to see when a user tries to take a conversation with someone out of the app, I’d set a moderation pattern to recognize phone numbers or words like WhatsApp.
EM: We offer a variety of different moderation capabilities. Some are more general, like block lists, but we also have Auto Moderation, which is intended to work in tandem with a human moderation team. So, it can be multi-level or not, depending on the decision and discretion of the customer.
RG: Ultimately, we can use this tooling, but a human on our trust and safety or customer experience team will review it.
If you'd like to experience the same benefits of integrating Stream as Feeld, contact our sales team to learn more.