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As the number of dating apps continues to grow, the dating world has never been as user-friendly or accessible. What once used to be a painful journey of questionable blind dates and poor chemistry, is now a streamlined process that provides users with verified results. With so many dating apps to choose from today, it’s easy to assume they are all basically the same – but they aren’t. Many apps do attempt to reach the same end-goal of creating a relationship, but you might be surprised at the different path each one takes to get there.
Tinder is undoubtedly the most popular dating app in the world, but that’s not to say that there aren’t other major players. Some extremely popular apps – such as Bumble, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, Grindr, Match, and OkCupid – have either been around for some time or are just now starting to gain significant traction.
Profiles across different apps mostly differ in the length of user bios are; apps like Tinder and Bumble are often extremely light on information. Alternatively, there are apps which allow users to share more of their information and see more about their potential connections, such as Match and OkCupid. This is perhaps the reason that Tinder and Bumble are often viewed as “hook-up” apps when compared to the more relationship-focused models of Match and OkCupid.
Heard the phrase “swiping right”? It originated with Tinder, where you have three options with a potential match: swipe right (like), swipe left (pass), or swipe up (super-like). If a user swipes right on someone who also swipes right on them, a private chat is opened between the two. This is how most of the popular dating apps operate. Iterations of this process are used by many dating apps, but some characteristics can make a big difference. For example, on the popular app Bumble, if a male-female match occurs, only the female can initiate the conversation and send the first message to the male (although same-sex and non-binary couples are not subject to this process).
Claiming to be “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people,” Grindr doesn’t include a swiping model like Tinder. Instead, users can view a list of people close to them and message without matching first. Some apps are more heavy-handed in their matching approach and will actually provide users with new profiles daily based on your interests. For instance, Coffee Meets Bagel provides users with just a few new profiles every day, and if no action is taken, they disappear to make room for new ones tomorrow.
Hinge is one of the closest relatives of Tinder, but the process is slightly more in-depth. The app takes the user’s preferences into account and go beyond the basic filters that other apps provide. It allows users to answer various prompts like “biggest fear” and “two truths and a lie,” then gives users the option to like, and comment on specific pictures or answers within your profile.
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It really all began with Match – but not the one we know today. Operation Match – founded in 1965 by three Harvard undergrads – is considered by many to be the world’s first company to utilize computers in the process of getting “hitched”. While the idea is not new the platform has changed significantly over time. The true pioneer of online dating is undoubtedly Match.com (today known as simply “Match”). Despite Tinder’s recent popularity, Match’s 24-year history in the dating world has produced millions of connections and the company currently operates in 25 different countries. For perspective, Tinder is currently up and running in 190 countries and has over 50 million users in the United States alone.
Match and other early dating sites like OkCupid (launched 15 years ago) were created in a different time – a time before the mobile application. Formerly desktop-only sites, they now have mobile apps that see far more traffic than their websites do. For instance, Match claims that 80% of their users engage exclusively with their app. There’s no question that the dating app is the most widely used medium for online dating today as well as the most-probable future for the industry, and the success of apps like Tinder prove it. Launched in 2013 the platform has already created over 8 billion matches. It’s worth noting though that Tinder, OkCupid, and Match are all owned by the parent company Match Group, which IPO’ed in 2015 and is valued at nearly $28 billion. Therefore, Match Group sits atop the dating mountain, raking in $1.7 billion in revenue just last year. But that’s not to say that there aren’t competitors; there are many and they’re growing fast. Apps such as Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Hinge all pose a serious threat to the giants at Match Group. Bumble boasts over 55 million users and the app was released a year after Tinder.
At this point, having a functional app – either as a primary base or a website complement – is a requirement for success in the world of online dating, but there are still many different pockets of the market that these companies are trying to corner. One of the most coveted age groups to capture is the 18-29 age range, and Bumble is currently the leader with Tinder following closely behind. Another statistic that is highly regarded is the ratio of men to womenthat are using the site. While Tinder’s is relatively low compared to others on the market, Coffee Meets Bagel is one of the highest, with niche app Christian Mingle consistently posting the most female users.
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One of the more interesting things about these apps are the systems used to determine who you will swipe on next. Many use an Elo rating system – similar to the ones used to rank chess players – to determine the strength of a specific profile. Just like a game, the Tinder algorithm ranks users by how often they are swiped right on, and by the number of times their “admirers” have been swiped on as well. If the person swiping right on you was also swiped right on numerous times, then your score will increase as a result of their profile’s strength. The algorithm relies on numerous factors like age and location, as well as a host of other unique preferences, but the app produces potential matches that are within range of your personal score. While different apps claim to use systems which differ from Tinder’s, the general process is usually quite similar.
The algorithm is really quite simple and easy-to-manage for these companies, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its issues. In the past few years, there has been significant controversy and debate concerning which filters should be available to users. One of the most heavily debated filters is ethnicity, and while many companies want to create an open platform, some argue that the filters may actually increase the fairness of the Elo rating system for minorities. For instance, if white users prefer – on average – to match with other white users, the non-white users whom they swipe left on will be unequally affected, continuously moving their profile down in the rankings. If users are given the chance to filter the profiles they see, this phenomenon may be mitigated. On the other side of the coin, filtration may lead to a highly segregated experience, and be a tremendous step in the wrong direction.
However, several “elite” dating apps have fully embraced filters for their users. Apps such as The League, Raya, and Luxy all have serious barriers to entry. The League requires its users to verify their LinkedIn account and the app generally attracts highly-educated individuals. Raya – which is mainly for celebrities, tech execs, and influencers – has a vague and subjective application process, which weeds out the ‘average joes’. Luxy is certainly one of the most controversial elite apps on the market. In a press release, the company billed itself as “Tinder without the poor people.” Luxy also provides the option to filter out people based on their annual income, which is just one of the many reasons the app has received harsh criticism for being classist. The League also has some ultra-specific preferences that users can choose from, like height, educational status, and level of ambition. Currently, The League has over 50,000 people on their waitlist, and the app continues to proliferate in different cities throughout the U.S. Although these apps certainly aren’t for everyone, the increased filtration and barriers for entry could very well be the future of dating apps, as most of them seek to create, and perpetuate,specific communities within the dating world.