With one of the world’s largest LGBTQ populations, China has many social apps to meet the varying needs of the community. Homosexuality is legal in the country, but LGBTQ people have no access to many legal rights such as marriage and discrimination protection. However, those social apps often provide a much-needed space for the community.
This list is an update to TechNode’s similar compilation five years ago. We’ve seen considerable changes in China’s LGBTQ online social market in the past five years. Some apps have stopped operations; others paused for a while but managed to come back with new brandings.
Launched in 2012, Blued is a dating app primarily for gay users. The app is available in 13 languages with over 60 million registered users in 2020, according to its official website.
Similar to Grindr, Blued helps users find interesting matches nearby. In 2016, the app introduced a live streaming feature, and within two days of launching, the feature brought in over RMB 100,000 ($14,306) in income, Chinese media outlet 36Kr reported (in Chinese).
The app launched a “Community” feature in 2020, allowing users to build deeper connections through group chat functions.
Blued is owned by BlueCity, a Chinese tech firm that focuses on LGBTQ+ users. The firm went public on Nasdaq in 2020. However, the firm has a hard time turning a profit. Its net loss has expanded 39.5% year-on-year to RMB 309.6 million in 2021 due to local regulations and other factors, according to the company’s financial report. BlueCity is also in the process of going private, according to a company statement sent to TechNode.
Finka (formerly known as Aloha) is a Tinder-like dating app for gay users. Like Tinder, users can choose to like, dislike, or pass on algorithm-generated recommendations. Matched users can chat privately. Finka also offers live streaming features.
Compared to Blued, Finka focuses more on young users. The app has a youthful user interface, allowing users to upload more profile pictures than Blued.
The app is developed by Beijing Asphere Interactive Network Technology and acquired by BlueCity (in Chinese) in 2020 for RMB 240 million, 36Kr reported.
According to Qimai Data (in Chinese), the app began to trend upwards from the end of 2020, as its downloads grew threefold to 47,628 in December compared to numbers from November. In May of this year, the app had 90,948 downloads in App Store’s China mainland region.
the L (Rela)
Launched in 2012, the L (formerly known as Rela) is a social platform for lesbian and bisexual female users. Unlike traditional dating apps, the L offers an Instagram-like social platform. Users can post and react to other users’ posts in the app, offering a deeper social experience.
The app also features a public voice chatroom section, with users able to talk together about a variety of topics under labels like dating, gaming, and casual chatting, similar to the model used by social audio companies like Clubhouse.
Chinese startup Hangzhou Rilan Technology developed Rela, which was banned and pulled off from all app stores in June 2021 due to unknown reasons. Seven months later, the app came back online with new branding.
LesPark is another dating app used by lesbians in China. It uses a model similar to Tinder and Finka. According to its official website, the app has over 12 million users globally.
The app generally has a lot of the common dating app features, like speed matching, group chat, voice chat, live streaming, and an open platform for posts. One of the standout components of LesPark is the ability for users to start a random chat with strangers.
Qingyuan Park Culture of Media, a Guangdong-based company established in 2017, owns the app. It also owns another reading app called Ji Hua Le Du featuring mostly lesbian-themed writings.
As one of China’s most respected book and movie review platforms, people usually don’t think of Douban as a dating platform. But over the years, the site has quietly become a go-to place for many LGBTQ+ members, especially lesbians, to find friends, thanks to Douban’s openness and friendly attitude towards the community.
The app combines book, film, and music reviews with a Reddit-like community, offering group functions for all kinds of interests and social activities. Many Douban users often post their profiles and seek dates and friends on LGBTQ+ groups.
For example, the largest lesbian group on Douban has 69,151 members. Douban also has a diverse range of lesbian groups, some are location-focused, and others focus on more specific topics. The site has no English language versions, so it’s usually catered to Chinese-language users.