Looking for Love: Tinder and the Online Dating Industry

Looking for Love: Tinder and the Online Dating Industry

Tinder's parent company Match Group released its first quarter earnings report at the beginning of the month, and the results were impressive. Tinder now has more than 1 million paying customers subscribed to its Tinder Plus service, and the app continues to go from strength to strength. So what is it about Tinder that makes it stand out from the competition? To find out, we revisited a talk from last year's Web Summit featuring Tinder's Sean Rad.


The Devil’s in the Data

Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad sat down with Forbes Senior Editor Steven Bertoni for a discussion at last year’s Web Summit about Tinder’s incredible reach, and why he thinks the app has proven so popular.

Although Sean was unable to reveal how many people subscribe to the app, he did provide some interesting metrics:

  • Tinder is used in 194 countries, two short of the entire world
  • 9 billion matches since the app launched
  • 30 million matches a day
  • 1.8 billion swipes a day
  • 1.5 million dates a week from Tinder matches
  • 1 million of these are first dates

It’s not difficult to see the impact Tinder has had. It is the dominant social discovery / dating app in every major country, connecting new people in a way in which no other digital social platform has done before. The app is so integrated into the everyday lives of the public that the term Tinder Date, meaning a successful online pairing who meet in real life, has entered the English lexicon.


An Easy-to-Use Experiment

As Sean was keen to stress during the talk, the goal of Tinder is to help people make meaningful connections. The initial idea for the app came from the observation that people feel more comfortable approaching strangers when they have the stranger's approval to do so. He noted the various barriers we face in today’s society, and how these can make meeting someone more difficult. Tinder makes the initial encounter less awkward, more efficient and more streamlined. It removes the potential hurt we could feel when rejected, and presents the user with a large database of potential matches.

The key to the app’s success is its easy-to-use interface. Participants swipe right for people they want to meet, and left for those they don’t. Other online dating services seem quite complicated when compared to Tinder. Sites like PlentyofFish request users to fill out long and detailed personal surveys to facilitate better matches. Tinder simply requires users to connect to their Facebook profile, as it uses their existing social network data to create a profile and find people in their immediate vicinity.

The rise of Tinder is not just evident of changes in our dating habits, but also how we digest information. As the world becomes increasingly connected, there is an oversaturation of information calling for our attention. We are processing information in smaller summarised chunks, speeding through data in a never-ending quest for knowledge. Tinder works because its design enables quick and streamlined matching.


The Morality of Modern Dating

As one would expect, there have been numerous articles about Tinder and its impact. A Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales, titled Tinder and the Dawn of the "Dating Apocalypse" portrays the app as one used more so for finding quick and easy hookups than long and lasting relationships. Tinder was quick to criticise the article and appeared offended by the suggestion that most people use Tinder for nothing more than one night stands.

During the Web Summit talk, Sean revealed how Tinder had just completed a survey of 300,000 users, which he described as one of the largest surveys of single people ever completed. The survey found that 80% of people using Tinder are looking for long term relationships, while 20% are there for friendships, short-term relationships or hookups. This seems to counter what’s suggested in the Vanity Fair piece, but surveying 300,000 out of potentially millions of Tinder users isn't particularly representative of Tinder as a whole.

As the Vanity Fair piece pointed out, the majority of people using Tinder for hookups with strangers are men, and there is a strong possibility that most men on Tinder are using the app for nothing more than some no strings attached fun. Instead of taking offense at this notion, the company should acknowledge its likelihood and accept it for what it is; changes in societal and cultural norms reflective of different attitudes towards once taboo subjects like sex. Tinder should take no shame in what the app is used for, once it’s bringing its users happiness, even if this happiness is of the fleeting kind.


In Love and War

Tinder may be dominating the online dating service market, but there are alternatives springing up all the time. Apps like Coffee Meets Bagel, Happn and Hinge are attempting to steal Tinder users by offering unique features. For example, Coffee Meets Bagel is female centric and provides users with just one match per day, while Happn matches people based on travel routes.

The only way online dating services can compete with Tinder is to offer new and exciting features. While using Tinder as a template is not a bad idea, successful apps need to innovate and think outside the box. There is a solid global online dating market, but who and what will knock Tinder off its top spot remains to be seen.



Tinder truly is a global phenomenon, but it is not something original. Its creators simply took an existing service and streamlined the user experience, allowing people to quickly and effortlessly meet potential matches. The simplicity of its design is the key to Tinder’s success.

As long as online dating services exist, people will debate the intentions of the users. But instead of being bogged down by the morality of it all, people should understand that it is but a reflection of the changes in our societal and cultural practices, and in how we process information. To compete with Tinder, new apps must recognise these changes, and offer users innovative features that either further streamline the process or add extra value to the experience. 

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Published by Research and Markets