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Let’s get business out of the way: Last week, the tech world was quite rightly salivating over Tinder, the buzzy online-dating app that’s not even two years old.
It was initially reported, mistakenly, that the app was valued at $5-billion (U.S.) after its majority owner, IAC/InterActiveCorp., bought back 10 per cent of the business from a venture capitalist, allegedly for $500-million. In the end, denials were issued over the price paid, and now no one is sure exactly how many millions Tinder is worth.
But let’s move on to pleasure. Beyond the multi-million-dollar valuation, does the app actually work as a dating service? Its creators promise a scaled-back experience that eases the social anxiety for those who practise the fickle art of online dating. At the same time they concede that the simplified entry point to Tinder – rating user photos – may be too shallow an introduction.
Yet something about this concept is already clicking with many smartphone users. As of March, Tinder, in lieu of disclosing user numbers, said it’s made one-billion matches in just 18 months. Founder and CEO Sean Rad is also reported to have told a conference that, every day, app-users make 10-million matches and 750-million swipes (more on that in a second), and spend an average of one hour with it.
Here’s a guide to understanding the latest iteration of how people meet people online.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Tinder is an app you download on your iOS or Android device, and access using your Facebook account. (The platform is completely mobile.) You’re fed a photo stream of potential matches from the database, selected using a basic set of search parameters: age, gender and distance from your location.
Its premise is based on swiping left or swiping right: Say you load a picture of a local gent named Cliff, 29. You can click to see more of my photos.
Beyond that, the only morsels of information available are any mutual Facebook interests (we might like the same neighbourhood bar) and mutual Facebook friends.
But at any point you can swipe the screen – left for “no,” or right for “yes.” Then onward to the next profile, and repeat.
What happens if you swipe left? Nothing at all.
What happens if you swipe right? Nothing – at first. Tinder’s magic happens when the app recognizes that two people have swiped “yes” to one another. At this point they’ve created a match, and only then will Tinder allow them to chat.
SO WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
Let’s consider what it’s not:
It’s not time-consuming. By using Facebook to log in, Tinder bypasses the agonizing process of crafting the perfect profile, which is often the biggest barrier to online dating. Instead, it uses your existing Facebook data and photos to populate a profile. Within minutes of first using the app, you’re ready to see who’s out there without even having to consider your pained opening line.
It’s not awkward. Tinder has somehow turned a crude concept into its touchstone appeal. The way it makes matches is essentially a version of Hot or Not: Are you attracted to my profile picture? But by taking out one key part of the equation – no one is implicitly identified as a Not – and tweaking another (delaying the gratification of knowing one is Hot), Tinder has created a uniquely positive dating environment. It takes the onus off one party to initiate with a poke, wink or expectation-filled message, and forces both people to meet in the middle.
It’s not so serious. While there is still a social stigma attached to online dating, often relegating the topic to hushed chatter among close friends, Tinder’s casual nature has made it a conversation-starter. It was a star of the Sochi Olympics as athletes admitted, with much enthusiasm, the app was a huge hit in the village. Take out a smartphone at the bar and friends can swipe through potential matches as a group activity. At Tinder’s current rate of growth, the dinner-party question du jour might be: “How are you not on Tinder?”
BUT DOES IT REALLY WORK?
Does app theory match reality? The Globe asked Canadian users whether the Tinder formula worked for them. Here are some of the responses (some names have been changed):
ANDREW, 35, COURIER, WINNIPEG
Are you currently single?
Have you ever had a relationship off Tinder?
I haven't, but I have had hookups.
How long have you used Tinder for?
How many matches have you made on Tinder?
10 or so.
How many of these matches have you met in real life?
Just one or two.
What do you think of Tinder? Especially in comparison to other dating sites and apps (Blendr, plentyoffish.com, match.com, eHarmony, etc.).
I find it easier to talk to women on this site because they are as interested in matching with you as you are with them. On other sites, it's very difficult for guys to send messages to women because a lot of guys tend to be direct and dirty, so if you are a normal guy … you don't have much of a chance