The Scoop: After more than 16 years in the online dating industry, gay dating site ROMEO is still thriving. Users enjoy ROMEO’s slew of features that help them find both friendships and relationships. The platform also encourages a sense of community and improves the lives of LGBTI people around the world through its groups and its nonprofit PlanetRomeo Foundation. ROMEO continues to build a sex-positive online experience as some other dating sites and apps become less welcoming to specific gender identities and sexualities.
Since its founding more than 16 years ago, ROMEO, a dating site for gay, bisexual, and trans people, has been entirely user focused. The site hears what its users desire and aims to meet their changing needs quickly.
Over that time, users have returned that sentiment with their full support for the platform, growing ROMEO’s membership to more than 2 million.
But even as the number of users continues to grow, the ROMEO team never wants to forget about those who made the platform successful in the first place.
“We are literally nothing without our Romeos,” said Founder Jens Schmidt.
ROMEO’s team is passionate about listening to its users because they see the platform as an advocate for gay men online, serving as a place where they can both feel comfortable and see themselves reflected.
“We feel that gay men need a loyal ambassador online to voice their needs and fly their flag,” Jens said.
ROMEO, headquartered in Amsterdam, is up to that challenge, in part, because the site is owned and operated by gay men. This ownership structure ensures that the priorities of its users aren’t ignored. Most of the company’s employees are also members of the LGBTI community.
Further, the site doesn’t have investors, so ROMEO isn’t beholden to following stock market trends to pay dividends and stay viable.
That means the ROMEO team can prioritize the needs of members rather than focusing on the interests of outsiders.
“We want to be an out, loud, proud gay voice that is not restrained by financial ties to larger companies,” Jens said. “Our independence is one of our greatest strengths.”
Founded in 2003 With a Robust Feature Set
Throughout its history, ROMEO has seen many trends that alternately promoted and detracted from gay rights and visibility. Now, ROMEO sees a more prudish outlook, both on other dating platforms and online, in general. For example, Jens said one major blog platform decided to censor all blog entries containing what it determined was pornography.
“That dramatic decision to censor billions of blog entries meant a lot of gay users might have felt cut off or abandoned,” he told us.
The ROMEO team wants to fight against shaming attitudes with its pridefully sex-positive platform. Jens said this focus on user needs has become increasingly critical as sex-positivity becomes less important online. ROMEO, in contrast, ensures that users feel comfortable expressing their sexualities.
“We’re a gay community dating app but also an online social community network that lets gay men explore who they are safely online,” said Jens. “We want to support and nourish sexual exploration in our safe space that is ROMEO.”
The platform’s features aim to connect the virtual and real worlds to offer users a variety of ways to interact with one another.
“Your digital life with ROMEO is geared toward moving you into real life meetings that will, in the long run, make you happier,” Jens said. “Most people are social, and it’s in our interactions with others that we grow and thrive.”
Though ROMEO has lasted longer than many dating sites, the company has no plans of shifting its mission. Instead, Jens said the company’s success comes from overcoming challenges over the long term. That means ROMEO users won’t have to worry about finding another community or about the platform selling them things to drive up profits.
“As an established market leader, we have already proven that we aren’t in this to make a quick buck,” said Jens. “We’re always thinking about longevity.”
Highlighting More Groups and Taking Functionality to the Next Level
Though ROMEO already boasted many popular features, the platform rolled out more options for users in 2018.
One of those new tools is VideoChat, so users can connect face-to-face with their online chat partners. This not only lets users see one another’s body language but also ensures that everything is aboveboard. Additionally, users don’t have to log out of the app to take advantage of the feature as video chats are integrated.
“As the first app of its kind to introduce free VideoChat, we set a new standard,” Jens said. “Now, our Romeos can see exactly what the guy behind the profile looks like.”
Another feature is Groups. Though Groups has long been a part of functionality, ROMEO made the feature more prominent on its desktop version — available on the app in March. Unlike dating sites through which users meet strictly to form romantic connections, Groups connects like-minded people for friendship as well.
“It’s not just about quickies; it’s about long-lasting, meaningful connections,” Jens said.
Users can create groups to socialize online, and sometimes they may even meet in person. A group might consist of users who share a common interest in a sport or hobby.
“For example, if you love badminton and want to meet other gay guys that enjoy the sport, set up a group on ROMEO, invite guys to join, and start organizing games in real life,” Jens said.
The idea is to create friendships among gay men that instill a sense of community and can lead to real-world social interactions. ROMEO has groups for various interests including music, food, clubs, and travel, among many others.
ROMEO: Focusing on Data Security and Non-Discrimination for All
Because ROMEO is one of the most established gay dating sites, many users may wonder what’s left to accomplish. For one, the ROMEO team won’t be satisfied until it has perfected its app.
“We find an occasional improvement to the system is needed,” Jens said. “And 2019 will be about making as many of those improvements as we can to leave users with a sleek experience and better fit.”
For example, ROMEO wants to continue leading the dating app pack in following privacy laws. Because ROMEO is based in Amsterdam, the platform complies with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
That compliance with GDPR not only follows European laws but is also essential for users who would run a serious risk if their profiles were discovered on a gay dating site. Thus, ROMEO’s commitment to user safety is often much more vital than it is for other dating platforms.
“We respect that many of our users need a guarantee that their data and personal details are safe. And we are committed to keeping it that way,” Jens said.
ROMEO supports nondiscrimination organizations for LGBTI people across the world. Years ago, the platform set up PlanetRomeo Foundation to fund grassroots projects in parts of the world where LGBTI individuals’ rights are threatened, awarding grants of up to 5,000 euros.
“The foundation supports projects which provide shelter, as well as those under the themes of community organizing and sports and culture,” Jens said.
Their commitment to security and community exemplifies ROMEO’s mission as a company and a dating platform.
“We love sex, and we also want to make sure if that’s what our Romeos are looking for, they can find it,” said Jens. “But we also believe in love, friendship, community, and working together for a better brighter future.”