Elena Scotti/FUSION

Zoe* was heartbroken. She'd been brutally dumped by her fiancĂ©. As is typical in 2016, her friends had one consistent piece of advice: Get on some dating apps. But Zoe didn't want to date, at least not exactly. All she wanted was a distraction, ideally of the sexual kind. “I didn’t feel totally comfortable with some of the regular dating apps,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for a relationship.”

So, one hungover Saturday morning, Zoe downloaded an app she’d heard about from a friend. Feeld—formerly called 3nder, and still commonly referred to as the “Tinder for threesomes”—is different from its more mainstream, monogamy-centric counterparts. Most famously, you can set up a profile as single or as a couple, making it a haven for people in open relationships who up until now had very little technology to work with.

But Feeld is more than just a threesome app for single “unicorns” and their coupled hunters. For its nearly one million users, it's one of few dating apps that welcomes non-normative relationship models, with 18 different sexual identifications to choose from, ranging from queer to objectum sexual. The one thing all users seem to have in common is that they are, as the app promises, “kinky, curious and openminded.”

Because Feeld is so romantically diverse, it's common for people to ask each other up front when they start chatting: "What brings you here?" People on the app include a 29-year-old straight man who loves submissives and a 23-year-old bisexual woman who is looking for “fun friendly playmates.” Damien, a 36-year-old bisexual man in a “it's complicated” relationship with a gay man, uses Feeld exclusively to meet women who are “a little more out there” than ones he’s encountered on other apps. “Sex and love don’t have to go hand in hand,“ he says of why he chooses to keep things open.

Though it boasts a wide-ranging user base, the app is still 74% heterosexual, followed by bisexual and heteroflexible. But Feeld Founder Dimo Trifonov says it also attracts those who can’t yet be defined. The app is a safe space for people who are questioning their sexuality, he claims. Compared to strictly gay apps like Grindr or Scruff, Feeld can be an experiment, like dipping your toes in the water.

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This culture of experimentation is why Zoe was nervous when she first went on Feeld. But it only took a couple of hours for her to swipe up (as opposed to Tinder’s right) and match with someone cute. After some chatting, Jack* would bring his girlfriend Sarah* to meet Zoe for drinks. Now, all three of them are friends. They go out to bars and dance parties and sometimes the night ends with sex. They consider it a simple arrangement, and exactly what all three of them were looking for. Jack says Feeld is the first time that he and Sarah have successfully used an app to facilitate their open relationship, which they’ve been in for over five years.

Dimo doesn't think this scenario is all that weird or even unique. With Feeld, he is trying to capitalize on the natural evolution of relationships, which he believes are moving away from monogamy. To where? According to Dimo, love is headed towards
whatever the fuck you want. And luckily, his app will be there: “a field for you to discover your sexuality and explore it by yourself, with your other half or with any human you'd like.”

Fire up Feeld and its multiplicity is immediately evident in the design. Though, like Tinder, the app relies on asking you who you want to meet for its algorithm, Feeld profiles include far more information, like your "desires" and sexuality. Are you straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, queer, androgynosexual, androsexual, asexual, autosexual, demisexual, gray-a, gynosexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, objectum sexual, omnisexual, or skoliosexual? As for gender, you can identify as male, female, transsexual, or transgender. You can also reveal that you practice transvestism—dressing and acting in a style associated with the opposite sex.

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Unlike many of its contemporaries, Feeld actually encourages—as opposed to accommodates—queer users. In designing his app, Dimo looked to the Kinsey Scale, building on the belief that sexuality is a spectrum, not a binary. Interestingly, Tinder, which has been accused of promoting promiscuity and spawning the dating apocalypse, avoids addressing “sexuality” all together.

The thoughtfulness behind the design of Feeld obscures the reality that this is Dimo’s first foray into tech entrepreneurship. The 26-year-old Bulgarian designer who usually works on branding campaigns got the idea when his longterm girlfriend told him she had a crush on a woman. “She thought something was wrong, but there was nothing wrong,” he says of her tearful confession. Dimo wasn’t just okay with the revelation, he told her he was down to “try something.”

Dimo and his girlfriend—who live in London—weren’t quite sure how they would meet women to experiment with. The couple doesn’t like going to bars or clubs. They consulted pre-existing dating apps and websites, but none of them really worked. The options were either “too conservative” or “felt like they were from the 90s.” So Dimo pulled a preliminary version of Feeld together in a weekend, then took the next week off work to design it.

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The two-year-old app has received $500,000 in investment money and Dimo now works on it full-time. Though its user base is a drop in the bucket compared to Tinder’s 50 million, there’s reason to think the app will grow, especially now that it's avoided legal trouble by changing its name. Research suggests that the market for an app like Feeld is only expanding, with more than one in five people now saying they are in a non-monogamous relationship. A recent study that analyzed Google searches using terms related to polyamory found that they increased between 2006 and 2015, proving that these kinds of relationships have seen more visibility and interest. “I have always been this way I just didn’t know there was a certain model for it until recent years,” says Feeld user Damien of a cultural change.

Other more established dating services are starting to take note of this viable market. OKCupid's research has revealed a growing curiosity with polyamory; 24% of its users were “seriously interested” in group sex and 42% said they'd consider dating someone in an open relationship. Most notably, they found that a minority of their users (44%) were committed to monogamy, compared to a majority (56%) in 2010. In response, OKCupid added "in an open relationship" to its status options this January, and you can now link to your partner's profile page for transparency.

Dimo says he wants a small user base so that the app is filled with “sophisticated,” “forward-thinking” people, a decidedly niche, and mostly urban group—at least for now. When you go to upload photos, for example, the app humorously warns: “No nudity, society is not ready yet.” In fairness, the app’s overwrought, hippy-dippy marketing language won’t appeal to everyone. “I am the fruit of the love of one human to another, and their journey together. They want to feel and be free, together,” its homepage reads. “Why abide by norms you never defined? Explore love beyond society's norms.”

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But aesthetic aside, Feeld, in conception, may have advantage over its competition. “With most subscription products, the more you improve your product, the lower your churn,” Uber’s Andrew Chen wrote in a blog post on why investors don’t fund dating apps. “With dating products, the better you are at delivering dates and matches, the more they churn!” Essentially, a successful dating app means the network is constantly losing users when they couple up and delete it from their phones. But given the anti-monogamy leanings of its user base, Feeld theoretically doesn’t have that problem; you could ostensibly be on it your entire life.

In her piece on open relationships, Molly Osberg notes how every generation brings with it different romantic ideals. “When they’re monogamous, people are described as remaining ‘faithful’ to their partner; infidelity refers to one of two things: sex outside of marriage or defection from God,” she writes on monogamy’s future. “So perhaps it’s no surprise an increasingly agnostic generation is wrestling with the various Thou Shalt Nots embedded in monogamy, or that secular love might require more pliant boundaries.”

Dimo agrees that millennials are different in their views towards sex, love and partnership, but he thinks it’s bigger than that. “Ownership is no longer a driving force for humanity,” he says, pointing to the rise of the sharing economy as evidence. It’s true that a service like Airbnb—inviting a stranger into your home while you aren’t there—would have been unheard of 20 years ago. Now, 72% of people participate in some kind of shared service, if not multiple.

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Will we one day wake up and find that we are sharing our homes, our cars, our desks, our meals and even our partners? Dimo is betting on it: “The future is open.”

*Names have been changed.

Deputy editor of Real Future.