Skip to Content

A Social Network Built for Two

A new app gives couples a private network to share texts, videos, and virtual kisses—and shows there’s space for social innovation.
March 30, 2012

You probably have a lot of friends on Facebook, but chances are there are only a few people—and one in particular—that you interact with most in real life.

Pairing up: A new app called Pair lets two people share photos, videos, texts, and more in their own private social network.

A new, free app called Pair wants to make it easier to connect with your special someone, whether it’s a significant other, family member, or friend. And while the app—which allows you to share messages, videos, and “kisses” with one other person—may sound a bit silly, it shows there’s still plenty of room for innovating in the increasingly crowded field for social mobile apps.

Stats indicate Pair may be on to something, too: In the first four days since it was released last Friday, it snagged more than 50,000 registered users, who sent over a million messages to each other. And while Pair was eligible for $150,000 in guaranteed funding since it participated in startup incubator Y Combinator’s just-completed winter session, it has also received funding from Dave Morin, CEO of another social mobile app, Path.

Pair began as something else entirely. Aswin Rajendiran, 27, says he and his four cofounders were initially working on software called Maide that could control 3-D CAD tools via the iPad. The founders, all of whom have graduated from or still attend Canada’s University of Waterloo, moved to Mountain View, California, several months ago to develop Maide at Y Combinator. But while they received good feedback for their project, “it wasn’t an everyday-use kind of thing,” Rajendiran says.

While brainstorming new ideas, they started thinking about the difficulty of keeping up communication in long-distance relationships—a problem three of them encountered as they worked to sustain relationships in the wake of the recent move to the United States.

Recognizing that we tend to communicate mostly with just one or two people, and that many of us use a number of methods to communicate with these folks, Rajendiran and his collaborators came up with Pair to simplify and amplify one-on-one connections.

Once you download Pair onto your iPhone (Rajendiran says an Android app will be available in about a week), you invite one other person to use the app with you. After they accept, Pair allows you to send each other messages, videos, photos, simple sketches, and more. There are several interactive features, too, including one called Thumbkiss, which shows a fingerprint when you press on the screen and makes both phones vibrate when you and your partner touch the same part of the display. To keep Pair communication private, the app can be locked with a four-digit code.

For Craig Elimeliah, the digital director at advertising agency RAPP in New York, Pair is like having a private version of Facebook or Twitter. He says he initially tried it because staying on top of new tech is part of his job, but quickly realized the app works well for sharing messages and links with his wife that their children won’t see when playing around with their parents’ phones. 

 “It’s kind of romantic,” he says. “There’s something about it where it’s just paired between her and I and there is nothing else on the screen. It keeps conversations focused.”

Rajendiran says that, for now, the focus is on improving the quality of interactions between users, rather than on making money. But the startup might eventually sell premium features, he says.

Catalina Toma, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies the impact of technology on relationships, says Pair helps people let their partners know they’re important, which is key to keeping a close, happy connection.  

“I think close couples do this kind of behavior anyway—they do texting, send photos—and this app just brings them together in one platform and recognizes the importance of this behavior,” she says.

And Pair isn’t just bringing together significant others. James Tamplin, a Y Combinator alum and CEO of online chat software provider Envolve, has been playing around with the app with his cofounder and says he could see it becoming a tool even for those in nonromantic relationships.

“It’s got the hook, which is the relationship part, but ultimately it’s a rich messaging application,” he says. “I think they can use that technology to expand it beyond couples and have it be useful and productive.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

light and shadow on floor
light and shadow on floor

How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation

The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

This new startup has built a record-breaking 256-qubit quantum computer

QuEra Computing, launched by physicists at Harvard and MIT, is trying a different quantum approach to tackle impossibly hard computational tasks.

wet market selling fish
wet market selling fish

This scientist now believes covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why.

How a veteran virologist found fresh evidence to back up the theory that covid jumped from animals to humans in a notorious Chinese market—rather than emerged from a lab leak.

protein structures
protein structures

DeepMind says it will release the structure of every protein known to science

The company has already used its protein-folding AI, AlphaFold, to generate structures for the human proteome, as well as yeast, fruit flies, mice, and more.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.