The age-old Oxford tradition of crewdating and dining in hall have recently made a very modern transition to the internet, with the launches of Crewdater.com, Venn.com and Hallsurfing.com.

The premiss of Crewdater and Venn  is to make the crewdating scene more accessible. The founders of Crewdater, who are Oxford undergraduates, stated that, “We wanted more crewdates and thought there must be a way to make it easier to find them, so the premiss of the website is just to make it easier. We also wanted to expand crewdating beyond sports teams to give more people a way of finding groups of people to go out with.

“It would be a shame if people missed out on what is a great Oxford tradition just because they aren’t in a sports team,” they said.

Tom Raynor of Venn summed up the new site, saying, “In short it makes crewdates easier, cheaper, and hopefully more fun.”
The team behind Crewdate, Maz Jaderberg, Ben Rickett and Nick Pointer, told Cherwell that they came up with the concept due to the experience of badly run social events.
Both websites  were said to be in development around the same time, but according to the founders of Crewdater they were “completely unaware of each other”.

There is rivalry between the two sites. The founders of Crewdater said, “To be honest, [Venn] have done a solid job, but we reckon they are making the same mistakes Crewdates.com did three years ago, in particular by making every member of the crew sign up to the site. Personally, we think it’s part of the fun of a crewdate is to not know who you are about to be meeting”.  

Tom Raynor said, “There isn’t a reason that teams couldn’t be on both sites. Obviously the market that Venn is going for is much, much bigger than just Oxford, but I expect Oxford students will end up using the site which is easiest and gets them the best deals – which will hopefully be us.”

The sites significantly update the crewdating concept. Crewdater  boasts a ‘date-page’ that puts teams head-to-head and allows public and  private posts, the latter of which only fellow team members can see. The website is also accessible through Facebook.

Tom Raynor said that Venn has had “a hell of a lot” of interest, continuing, “We’ve only been up and running for four days and we already have 71 teams on the site.”  Venn offer free beer and wine to the first four teams from each college to register.

A Trinity student stated that “After my last crewdate, which naming no names (St. Hilda’s rugby) involved a boy vomiting out of first floor window of At Thai and then vomiting over himself whilst the rest of the team took to smashing glasses for sconce announcement, I would very much like to have the opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff from now on”.

Crewdater.com has combatted privacy and abuse worries raised by some students. “All comments, profiles and photos are monitored and offensive content is automatically removed.

“There’s a fine line though between regulation and stifling freedom of speech, and we don’t want people to feel like their views are being censored.”

Tom Raynor issued a similar statement, saying, “We keep an eye on any obvious abuse, which we can remove, and if abuse is reported to us, it is dealt with very quickly.”

Crewdater’s founders told Cherwell the future was bright. “While there is the possibility of expanding to other universities, our number one focus is on providing the best service to students in Oxford.”They are about to launch a partnership with Varsity Events, which will mean every crew gets queue jump, discounted entry and the possibility of VIP tables and drinks.

Venn.com has ambitions further afield, stating, “We will be launching in Brookes next week, and have already had unsolicited requests to join from Cambridge, Exeter, Newcastle, Durham, and London. Once complete, the site won’t just be for students, but for grads and young professionals as well.”

Another website modernising Oxford traditions, Hallsurfing.com, allows students to invite guests to their colleges to experience eating in different halls and is proving to be a popular concept.