In the already overcrowded world of online dating, Tinder arrives with a pretty face and, somehow, successfully manages to decrease the creepiness of communicating with strangers ten-fold. What makes Tinder so unique and, well, mysterious is the way in which it protects its users’ identities. While OkCupid allows lonely hearts to browse the site’s in-depth profiles set-up like Facebook, and Grindr instantly permits nearby gays to communicate (and plot… who knows what they’re up to!?), Tinder severely limits the information people can gain access to.
Tinder requires users to link the app to Facebook, but it does’t post anything publicly and only uses limited information. Once you’ve linked Tinder to Facebook, you’re prompted to select a picture for your profile (what other users see immediately) and up to four other pictures (which other users can access when confronted with your profile). Because you’ve allowed Tinder to access Facebook, you will be able to choose any picture that you have uploaded to your profile.
From there, Tinder works as a sort of dating-roulette—faces with a name, age, shared interests, and shared friends (information legally attained by you agreeing to allow Tinder access to your profile) appear on your phone screen, and if you like what you see: swipe right, and if you don’t: swipe left. The person you’ve just encountered will get no sort of notification regarding your decision. However, if that person—when they come across your profile—expresses interest as well, the two of you will be able to chat via a messaging service provided by Tinder.
This is where Tinder struck gold: you are only allowed to receive messages from the people you have already expressed interest in. No more OkCupid troll sending you message after message promising dick pics if you give him your phone number. And even more, if the conversation is going well, you can ask your shared Facebook friends (since Tinder shows you mutual friends) if the guy or girl is normal. The shared Facebook friend feature also let’s you play the “how do you know so & so” game at your first date to break the ice.
In a conversation with Tinder’s founder and CEO Sean Rad, he explained this feature: “we limit every conversation to an event when two people have actually expressed interest in each other. So by doing that it becomes less creepy: you don’t need to communicate or be bothered by anyone you haven’t expressed interest in.” It seems like this feature should have been part of dating apps all along. Why did it take this long for us to figure out how?
We discussed with Sean their main demographic, expecting that college students would be top priority. But Sean explained that their demo was mostly outside of college student, but the college age group was a good indicator of the apps success: “College students are the most interested in meeting new people because it’s the critical years of their lives and at the same they exist in a certain environment where they’re the least needing of a dating app.” Clearly Sean didn’t go to NYU. “So if we could create a utility that works for college students and solves problems that they have, then we think that’s a clear indication that we’re solving core issues when it comes to meeting new people for everyone.”