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Jamie Anderson was one of several athletes who admitted that Tinder was popular at Sochi. (Mike Blake/REUTERS)
Jamie Anderson was one of several athletes who admitted that Tinder was popular at Sochi. (Mike Blake/REUTERS)

Everything you need to know about dating on Tinder (and how Canadians are using it) Add to ...

Follow me on Twitter: @clifforddlee

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.

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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?

No.

Have you ever had a relationship off Tinder?

I haven't, but I have had hookups.

How long have you used Tinder for?

Six months

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

What do you love most about Tinder?

How simple the user interface is.

What's one thing you would change?

That you are able to see a list of who you said yes and no to. What if you made a mistake!

Have you had any more or less success at meeting people on Tinder?

I can't say I've had an amazing or terrible experience. Nothing has really stood out yet.

Who would you say is the type of person who would like using Tinder?

Someone who doesn't essentially know what they are looking for, but know they want to look for something

Is Tinder the real deal when it comes to online dating?

I've found more success on other sites, but this one is the most fun.

How would you describe yourself?

A mostly laid-back, easy-going guy who can pretty much get along with anyone.

SARAH, 28, COMMUNITY MANAGER AND BLOGGER (NOTTHATMANYFISH.COM), TORONTO

Are you currently single?

Technically yes. I say technically, because I'm seeing a few people but not in a relationship. You may as well call it single.

Have you ever had a relationship off Tinder?

No relationships have come out of my Tinder experiences.

How long have you used Tinder for?

Six to seven months.

How many matches have you made on Tinder?

Hundreds.

How many of these matches have you met in real life?

Four.

What do you think of Tinder? Especially in comparison to other dating sites and apps (Blendr, plentyoffish.com, match.com, eHarmony, etc.).

The app is total garbage. I've missed so many messages and it's a total user-experience nightmare, especially in comparison to OkCupid, which is my primary online-dating tool. I wish the app matched people in the background rather than having a pop-up each time.

Have you had any more or less success at meeting people on Tinder?

I've met four people on Tinder in real life: two that I dated, one that involved lots of late night texts and one that became a friendship.

In terms of my two dating experiences, they were right around the same time.

One gent was a fair bit older than me. We tried to connect to go out for a few weeks and eventually went for dinner on the Dundas West strip. I then took him to a bar, because I wasn't ready to end the date. Not to be judgmental, but he ordered a Jack and Diet Coke. We went on a subsequent date to lunch because it was hard to get our schedules to mesh. The entire time I basically watched the news playing in the background because he made me want to stab my eyes out, he was so dull. I guess any guy who owns two Basset Hounds is an immediate red flag.

The other guy was closer to my age. He also works in a similar industry and we have a lot of mutual friends. This guy liked to get really drunk and send really sad text messages. He once showed up at a friend’s show unannounced and tagged along to the afterparty. When I went inside to get beers, he apparently took a swig of whisky from a random person's flask and then disappeared. I tried to get a hold of him and heard back from him about half an hour later, when he told me that he had gone home. I cabbed over to his place and stood outside in the rain for 10 minutes, waiting for him to come down and let me in. I got an apologetic message from him the next day, but after that I never heard from him.

What do you love most about Tinder?

People seem to find it easier to connect via Tinder and things tend to go faster because there’s less of a profile to slog through.

What's one thing you would change?

Three things: notification settings and message/inbox management, and the ability to filter what mutual friends/interests are visible.

One of my biggest issues with the app is that I can only use my Facebook photos, and it’s a pain in the ass to change them. From the perspective of a gal looking at a guy’s profile, if it’s all group photos it’s nearly impossible to figure out who the person actually is. OkCupid has a great tool where you can get feedback on your best photo.

Who would you say is the type of person who would like using Tinder?

I think it's a mixed bag. For instance, I go back and forth on using it because I'm recently out of a long-term relationship. I often browse when I'm bored, but have no emotional connection to the app, and often my matches.

Is Tinder the real deal when it comes to online dating?

No. One of the things that stops it from being deeper is because it ultimately rests on whether or not you find the person attractive. It’s also really easy to “game” Tinder by constantly swiping right or picking “the right” photo. It's definitely brought online dating even more mainstream, but I think for me, the lack of anonymity also makes it hard to get past. I'm pretty easy to find online, so I don't always feel comfortable using Tinder for that reason.

I would definitely say I'm a dating enthusiast, but also a realist. Which is why I keep trying to give it a second chance. The app has come leaps and bounds since it first came along, so it’ll be interesting to see its growth and when its popularity plateaus.

How would you describe yourself?

Pretty awesome, well-adjusted, gainfully employed. Ridiculously into pop culture and passionate about music.

JESSE, 34, WRITER AND MARKETER (SHIPWRCKD.COM), TORONTO

Are you currently single?

Yes.

Have you ever had a relationship off Tinder?

No.

How long have you used Tinder for?

Nine months.

How many matches have you made on Tinder?

102. Part of the reason for the high volume of matches was because I went on vacation last Christmas to Amsterdam and tried the location features on the app. It didn’t work, so I shut it off. But when I got home, I noticed I was getting dozens of dutch girls in my feed because I guess the app did work in the end, and my matches wound up in the queue. I swiped “yes” for most of them because, hey, who doesn’t want to have a bunch of new friends in Amsterdam for next time? On the other hand, who knows what the app’s lifespan will be, or if it will still be in use by the next time I visit.

How many of these matches have you met in real life?

Two planned meetups, a couple of “hey … haha, you’re that guy from Tinder that I haven’t written to yet.”

What do you think of Tinder? Especially in comparison to other dating sites and apps (Blendr, plentyoffish.com, match.com, eHarmony, etc.).

I think it makes you feel like you’re getting lucky with a real person that is problem/hang-up-free, because you aren’t meeting them through the stigma of a dating site, but I feel that results are just as dicey. Having no profile to speak of really does create intrigue and forces you to talk with the person of interest, but some girls join out of curiosity rather than intention. Or they still feel it has the stigma of any other online-dating site, so are reluctant to admit that they are using it to meet people.

Have you had any more or less success at meeting people on Tinder?

I don’t actively seek to meet girls from Tinder, but after nine months of using the app, my most successful meetup was with a girl who is now my dentist. I had just starting seeing someone at the time, but she was very persistent, so I reluctantly met up out of curiosity. It turns out we really weren’t a match, which was a relief. But she grew up down the street from me and works at a successful dental clinic with her family. My former dentist had recently retired, So I was in dentist limbo. Problem solved! She even plays me Songza playlists when I come in.

What do you love most about Tinder?

It’s really just a time-waster with a fantasy edge to it. Some people are okay with meeting up fairly soon, but I feel that other girls are more standoff-ish (understandably) and would probably take a lot more effort to get them comfortable enough to meet up with you. It’s weird, but it’s also something to fall back on if you are going through something uncomfortable during your day … or feeling frustrated with your IRL person of interest. It’s a good way to vent frustration.

What's one thing you would change?

It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.

Who would you say is the type of person who would like using Tinder?

It has a pretty broad appeal: Guys who enjoy fishing with their shirts off. Girls obsessed with selfies. Shy girls that like that they can post numerous group shots with friends, and don’t have to be seen alone. People that are curious about online dating, but don’t want to commit to writing a whole profile.

Is Tinder the real deal when it comes to online dating?

It’s just another avenue. While it gives you the head-turning simulation of catching someone pretty walking down the street, there’s still not all that much chemistry to it. Although I’ve heard it can work out well still. It works well for flirty conversations, but escalating to an actual date or meetup is a whole other game.

How would you describe yourself?

Outgoing, eclectic, but a bit shy and reserved when it comes to meeting someone I actually like.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

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Follow on Twitter: @clifforddlee

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