The Real Deal: New Dating App RAW Takes Aim at Authenticity

RAW Dating

The last time the US and the UK were so adamantly united in their enthusiasm about something, we had Harry Styles queerbait in unitards on stage for the whole two years non-stop, which got annoying. So naturally, we’re asking ourselves: what in the watermelon sugar high is going on?

Attention, legacy apps: there’s a new kid on the block, erm, a new #1 most downloaded dating app in the US AND the UK Google Play — and, chances are, you haven’t heard about it. Yet. But fret not, this won’t last. 

The newcomer in question is called RAW and as one can take right from its title on app stores, “date 100% real people,” the team behind it is championing all things authenticity, immediacy, and imperfection. 

And with the latest developments of RAW charting at #1 on Google Play and 200K monthly active users since 5 months launched, RAW doesn’t look like just a blip on the radar. It’s already an app that didn’t just climb to the top; it vaulted there, powered by the very real desire for something…well, real.

The app hinges (ahem) on a premise as simple as the opening synth of “As It Was,” though, in a sense, somewhat more groundbreaking. The idea is that most dating apps are a carnival of fakes that makes you put on layers—of makeup, filters, personas, and declared interests from an optimized list of preselected tags written by people who have never touched grass (yes, this is about you, the person in Tinder who thinks “music” or “Netflix” are valid options for hobbies to pick out from)—and the only way forward for the swipers, for the industry, and possibly even the humanity is to shed those layers in favor of something more primal.

Enter RAW, swinging its built-in two-facing dual camera (shoutout BeReal) and not allowing you to illustrate your dating profile with anything besides spontaneous double shots you’re prompted to take daily at random times. You match with people whose pictures-in-pictures you like—as they have barely anything else to show for themselves with RAW’s skeletal decluttered dater profiles.

All that is meant to evoke the rush and spontaneity of falling in love at first sight and makes total sense when you think about how almost always you know if you click with someone on actual first sight and how hard that impulse it is to override (those who might feel like arguing with it are simply in denial). Betting on first impressions isn’t an epiphany in itself—see the pampering of our dating and social profiles we collectively have been doing for some two decades—but it’s RAW’s effort to prevent tampering with them and level the playing field to ensure we revel in our imperfections that stands out.

RAW’s current rise isn’t just about timing or tech prowess—it’s what feels like a cultural zeitgeist moment. It’s what happens when the people, not unlike J.Lo in her middlebrow 2002 psychodrama, say “Enough!” RAW happens to have the ear attuned to the masses’ clamor against the filters industrial complex. We’ve mentioned BeReal and can throw in the dating app UnFiltered and Plenty of Fish’s “Bae-realing” movement as a few other instances of the swipe industry hearing the people’s lamentation.

Jumping on the two-camera bandwagon isn’t enough—Instagram blatantly stole BeReal’s swag last summer (devil works hard, Zuck works harder) and got immediately clowned on by TechCrunch for missing the point—they alleged Meta’s inventors of algorithmic artifice don’t understand BeReal’s understated fascination with other people’s habits and routines. The latter is part of RAW’s ethos, too: Marina Anderson, RAW’s co-founder, posits that seeing your crush with their pet or plant day-to-day carries more weight than seeing your crush, period, and explains that the app’s minimal interface and profile formatting are deliberately designed to encourage closer readings of other people’s energy and moods. Which we have to say anyone who has ever ended up on a date with a hot person with zero vibes will appreciate.

The app also prides itself on being completely free, but also freeing. While other apps like Tinder make the free version feel like a teaser trailer for a movie that’s always “coming soon,” RAW delivers the whole feature film out of the gate, no premium ticket required. This is again designed as a concrete answer to the fatigue with the swipe-and-ghost carousel. The same goes out for the app’s ingenious upcoming features: self-destructing chats that help minimize the effects of ghosting and a “respect meter” on inside dater’s profiles listing  their green/beige/red flags as reported by others.

It’s no wonder places like Elle UK and Australia’s Body + Soul are singing RAW’s praises—the latter goes as far as to express hope that the app revitalizes the dating app scene with its fresh and honest approach, while the former’s inclusion of RAW in top-5 of their 35-app rundown speaks for itself.


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