Tinder, a Dating App With a Difference

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February 27, 2013 at 11:55AM

At first glance, Tinder, a new mobile dating application, doesn’t seem much different from the dozens of other dating apps that are already out there, promising to help you meet nearby singles.

After signing up and setting their gender, location and sexual orientation, users swipe through profile pictures, tapping a green heart when they like what they see and pressing a red “x” when they don’t. Any time a user “likes” a member who has also liked him or her back, the application declares a match and introduces the two in a private chat room where they can warm each other up, exchange info and arrange to meet.

But there’s something about Tinder’s simple, flirty interface that is undeniably fun. It combines the sleazy appeal of rating profiles, popularized by Hot-or-Not, and the excitement of apps like Grindr that let people browse photos of people nearby who are eager to meet up, and rolls it into a simple and lightweight application that is easy to use while waiting in line at the grocery store and fun to show off to friends at a party. Although the application requires connecting through Facebook — typically a turnoff for people who don’t want to accidentally see the profiles of their colleagues or worry about embarrassing notifications popping up on their Timeline — it is cleverly discreet. The application, which uses Facebook data to match singles, tends to show users only friends of friends, avoiding potentially awkward run-ins, and it does not publish anything to members’ Facebook pages.

Tinder, which was introduced as an iOS application in October, appears to be picking up steam. Its founders say the application is downloaded more than 20,000 times each day and to date they’ve made 20 million matches through the service. Tinder’s creators declined to say how many people were using the application, but AppData, a third-party service that tracks app activity, estimates that Tinder has around half a million monthly active users.

The mobile application was born out of Hatch Labs, an incubator financed by IAC/InterActiveCorp, and became a stand-alone company in January. Its founders, who live in Los Angeles and are financially backed by IAC, first seeded the application across college campuses, including their alma mater, the University of Southern California, which means most of their users are of college age, although the average age of a Tinder user creeps as high as 27, according to the company.

The application is clearly addictive — more than 1.5 billion profiles have been rated, or ranked, to date — but it’s not certain that those interactions lead to meeting and eventually dating. At best, it’s an icebreaker.

“It helps you get to know the people around you, but limits conversations until you’re actually interested,” said Sean Rad, the chief executive. Mr. Rad, who also founded Ad.ly, which connects celebrities with brands and advertisers, started the company with Justin Mateen, Jonathan Badeen and Christopher Gulczynski

Mr. Mateen said that 70 percent of Tinder users who were matched began chatting through the application. But it’s hard to say how many of those people are meeting up, he admitted, since Tinder doesn’t follow up with its users after they are paired. But the company says the main purpose of the app is most important.

“It solves the problem of helping you get acquainted with new people you want to know,” Mr. Rad said.