Undergraduate computer science students Adam Novak and Kevin Sun launched Mist on Monday, which is called “a cross between an uplifting social media and a cute dating app.” The app is marketed to students, who can anonymously compliment people on campus and then connect via direct messaging.
The main function of the app is to post “fogs”, which are blocks of text labeled in a location chosen by the anonymous poster. Users can reply to these posts, which reveals their identity to the author of the original poster, who can then choose whether or not to reply. While many users are secret admirers who post about their missed hookups, Novak and Sun hope Mist can eventually focus more on building community than finding love.
“There’s a dating element, but it’s not necessarily that,” Novak said. “Just complimenting someone, making someone’s day.”
Mist was originally conceptualized in March of this year in USC CSCI course 499, “Computing for Social Good,” and from there Novak and Sun worked full-time through the summer. They drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including the missed connections section of the Craigslist online marketplace, and a Korean concept called “Bamboo Grove” (대나무숲).
The idea behind “Bamboo Grove” is to create an anonymous online repository, which Novak describes as a space to “reach out, share a compliment, get your second chance.”
The app‘s anonymous component has raised concerns about user safety, but Novak and Sun are adamant that they have a “no tolerance policy” for hate speech and offensive content. In addition to an internal team to report inappropriate behavior, users also have their own reporting function, and after an aggregation of these signals, posts will be removed. Each user can only have one account, which further incentivizes being respectful on the app.
The creators believe this new approach to online human connection will help Mist create a new niche in the dating app industry. It enters a crowded realm of apps used by USC students, including Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, but Novak and Sun are convinced their app is different and better.
Because posting to Mist requires “a little more intention and effort,” the creators believe linking will be more meaningful than simply swiping right on a photo. “Traditional dating apps, most of the time, seem superficial,” Sun said.
Some USC students are less optimistic than Novak and Sun about Mist’s potential and fate.
“I would give someone $100 if they told me they were in a relationship. [with] someone from Mist,” said Talib Isa, a second-year health promotion and disease prevention student. “Because it’s not possible.”
Although Isa said he downloaded the app, he doubts the premise of a dating app based on missed connections will translate into real interactions.
Kian Abrishami, a senior biomedical engineer who just downloaded the app, is also skeptical of Mist’s real promise.
“It’s funny, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a large enough user base for there to be a comment about me,” he said. “Or if I comment on someone, I’m not entirely sure they’ll see it. I don’t see that leading to anything.
Despite the criticisms, the app attracted around 1,500 users in the two days since its launch. Currently, Novak and Sun release two updates per day.
“We’re part-time students, so our main job is Mist,” Novak said. “There are small fixes that we are constantly working on, and we also have some really cool ideas for other features that are also in the works.”