Undergraduate computer science students Adam Novak and Kevin Sun launched Mist on Monday, which calls itself “a cross between an uplifting social media and meet-cute dating app.” The app is marketed to students, who can anonymously compliment people on campus and then connect via direct messaging.
The primary function of the app is to post “mists,” which are text blocks tagged to a location chosen by the anonymous poster. Users can reply to these posts, which reveals their identity to the original poster, who can then choose whether to respond or not. While many users are secret admirers posting about their missed connections, Novak and Sun hope that Mist can eventually focus more on community building than finding love.
“There’s an element of dating, but it’s not necessarily that,” Novak said.”Just compliment someone, make someone’s day.”
Mist was originally conceptualized in March of this year in USC course CSCI 499, “Computing for Social Good,” and from there became Novak and Sun’s full time job over the summer. They drew inspiration from various sources, most notably the missed connections section of the online marketplace Craigslist, and a Korean concept called, “Bamboo Grove” (대나무숲).
The idea of “Bamboo Grove” is to create an anonymous online repository, which Novak describes as a space for “reaching out to someone, sharing a compliment, getting your second chance.”
The anonymous component of the app has raised some concerns regarding user safety, but Novak and Sun are adamant that they have a “no tolerance policy” for hate speech and offensive material. Along with an internal team for flagging inappropriate behavior, users also have their own reporting feature, and after an aggregation of these flags, posts will be taken down. Each user can only have one account, which adds further incentive to be respectful on the app.
The creators think that this fresh take on online human connection will help Mist create a new niche in the dating app industry. It’s entering a crowded field of apps used by USC students, including Tinder, Hinge and Bumble, but Novak and Sun are confident that their app is different and better.
Because posting on Mist requires “a little more intention and effort,” the creators believe making connections will be more meaningful than just swiping right on a photo. “Traditional dating apps, a lot of the time, come off as superficial,” Sun said.
Some USC students are less optimistic than Novak and Sun about the potential and fate of Mist.
“I would give someone $100 if they told me that they’re in a relationship [with] someone from Mist,” said Talib Isa, a sophomore Health Promotion and Disease Prevention major. “Cause like, ain’t no way.”
While Isa said he did download the app, he doubts the premise of a dating app based on missed connections will result in real life interactions.
Kian Abrishami, a senior biomedical engineering major who just recently downloaded the app, is also skeptical about the real life promise of Mist.
“It’s fun, but it seems like there’s not a large enough user base where there’s going to be a comment about me,” he said. “Or if I make a comment about somebody, I’m not entirely certain that they’re going to see it. I don’t see it resulting to anything.”
Despite criticisms, the app has garnered roughly 1,500 users in the two days since it was launched. As of right now, Novak and Sun are pushing out two updates per day.
“We’re part time students, so our main job is Mist,” said Novak. “There’s little fixes we’re constantly working on, and we’ve also got some really cool ideas for some other features that are in the works too.”