The problem with Tinder

If you're building a dating application there is one question these days that you simply cannot avoid:

“Surely Tinder has the monopoly on dating now? Why build a dating product?”

Tinder has set the dating world on fire (pun fully intended). Its application is a simple 'hot or not' with messaging for mutual matches, similar to that of the lesser known Let's Date Sway. It has stripped away all the features it deemed unnecessary - features that were prevalent in 'traditional' dating products like OKCupid, Match and eHarmony. In essence it’s a perfect MVP that has caught the attention of millions of people -supposedly racking up 600 million swipes a day globally!

So, in this post I’ll address the question above. I’ll explain why it certainly isn’t the case that Tinder has the market on lockdown, why the introduction of Tinder is great for the rest of us and where Tinder falls short.

Tinder is good for the industry

Firstly, lets kick things off with why I think Tinder is a good thing to have happened to the industry.

It's simple really: More people are open to using a dating application.

Over the last couple of years, online and mobile dating was already becoming less taboo but this trend was supercharged by Tinder. Before its introduction you would never see people openly using a dating application in the pub amongst friends and strangers. Post-Tinder, not only are people using the service - they are also actively involving their friends in the process.

With all those people now exposed to online dating it really opens up the opportunity and challenge for other developers to usher in a new wave of products for people to switch to. After all, part of what made Tinder a success was that it's non-committal. In fact, this leads onto the first problem I want to highlight.

You can't be serious!

You don't have to look too far to find a host of 'Tinder problems’ – which while very funny when reading through them on a blog, are probably quite irritating for users. Even if a user finds these kinds of responses amusing (and not at all tiring) it's damaging because the service isn't being used for what it was designed for.

…And you thought there were douchebags on OKCupid! Tinder = douchebagsⁿ.

Undoubtedly, the same problems will occur that have plagued sites like OKCupid: The nice guys get lost in the quagmire of 'not so nice' guys.

Tinder problems image

This is a major issue. Because the service is non-committal you are highly likely to encounter the following:

*Even if you get matched with another user, there is still no guarantee they will reply * Conversation dies after exchanging a few messages * The conversation is a piss take

Tinder hasn't done anything to be innovative in solving the problems other dating apps suffer from. In fact, it's doing less.

Who are you?

If you've been lucky enough to figure out from another user's photos which one they are amongst their crowd of friends then you might want to know a bit more about them. Why? Because this might be useful when thinking about starting a conversation. Unfortunately, Tinder is rather "light on details".

There is the option for a user to write a bit about themselves but most don't. Then there are the parts that Tinder pulls from Facebook - interests in common and friends in common.

These are useless at worst and barely insightful at best.

Interests

Firstly, these are not the interests that you have in common with someone else. These are the brand pages that you have both liked. That system is entirely reliant on you pro-actively liking pages on Facebook. What usually happens is that your common interests are merely a brand that a lot of people like.

Tinder Interests

So, what can I gleam from this information? We both like cheap clothes and clothes we probably can't afford. No point recommending a date at a nudist beach then.

We might actually have interests in common - we just have no way of knowing. Facebook is not useful.

Friends

Friends in common: Lets be honest, this serves only one purpose. If you know you have a mutual friend then you can find them on Facebook. Considering that the majority of people have 500+ friends on Facebook - having friends in common should not be surprising.

On the off chance that you find someone with a lot of friends in common; chances are that they're already your friend. Hey, we have Bang With Friends for that!

Who sees who?

This is a good question that I am sure not many people know the answer to. I think most people presume that if you say yes to someone then they will see your card. You'll at least get a shot. Nowhere in the app is this stated. In many ways it makes sense - why should your stack of potential matches be filled with people who have already said yes to you?

The app 'Sway' that I mentioned earlier deals with this problem by saying "1 in the next 5 people said yes". This means that everyone on the app knows they stand a chance of being seen.

Tinder makes no such promises.

Why?

Firstly there is the small issue of each user's matching parameters. On Tinder it’s pretty simple: ASL (Age, Sex, Location).

Age

Not everyone's age search overlaps. If you're searching for people aged 24-29 and swipe yes to someone say 25. You are then relying on them having their age bracket set to include you also. So, if you're 30 and their bracket is 25-29. You miss out; your yes was pointless. Maybe Tinder matches up age brackets - but it's unlikely. It's not in their interests to do any matching and limit the amount of people you see.

Sex

Whilst most users are either heterosexual or homosexual there are users who are bisexual and will search for both men and women at the same time. Again, there is nowhere in the application that states you will be matched appropriately. In fact, there is even a note in the settings that states 'some suggestions may fall outside your desired parameters'

Location

On to one of the biggest problems:

Tinder ONLY matches you based on your current location

Tinder's older sibling OKCupid matches you based on your fixed location (i.e. London) and if you want to find local people based on GPS/current location then you can do that also. Tinder however, only uses current location. This is a problem for matching. Why? Because it assumes people stay in the same area the whole time. For example, if your search area is up to 3km and you see someone you like - in order to stand a chance of being matched they will need to open Tinder whilst in that area. If they are visiting within your search zone and open Tinder after leaving it or if their search radius isn't large enough to catch your location then chances are they will never see you. Swipe wasted.

Tinder image stack diagram

Imagine the Tinder interface as a stack of cards with your phone hovering aboving the deck. You really have no idea how the pack is shuffled and whether your card is even in the pack at all. You simply don't know and one thing people don't like - is not knowing.

Conclusion

So, here are some major issues with Tinder. It doesn't do much well - it just does it quickly. This has worked so far but I don't see it lasting. Once people get bored with the gimmicky swiping, Tinder will become something like the Draw Something of dating. That is unless they evolve their product. Given as they are owned by the same company that owns Match.com and thus OKCupid I don't see that really happening other than to better push users to one of their paid for services higher up the ladder.

However, one thing is for sure: although Tinder isn't solving any problems - it is opening the doors for other startups to do so, with a larger audience than ever before.

Rhys Howell, Founder of TGTHR