There’s a growing chance that if you’re looking for love in the digital age your search will begin with a glance at your smartphone’s screen. According to a poll from Pew Research, almost 11% of Americans have tried some form of digital dating, while that number explodes to 38% when talking exclusively about those who are «single and looking.»
The same data suggests that nearly 25% of millenials (those who came of age around the year 2000) have experience with dating apps or websites, and are less likely to see the whole process of digital dating as creepy, desperate, or anything other than a better way to meet someone who shares your tastes and interests.
Given the popularity of dating apps like (of course I’m going to say) Tinder, and the number of requests we get to build them, it’s worth looking into the different ways dating apps approach that most delicate of arts-matchmaking.
Let’s start by breaking things down a little
When it comes to actually making matches, dating apps typically fall into one of two categories: those which use extended questionnaires and algorithms and those which rely on a little old-fashioned impulse and serendipity.
If you have spent hours filling out surveys on an OkCupid or Match profile, you are already familiar with the first camp. Though the actual mathematics of match-making are hard, and a lot of the algorithms that these staples of digital dating use are either super complex, patented, or both. OKC does a pretty good job explaining the magic that goes into their match percentages on their site.
It basically boils down to, «if I love ninja turtles, and you love ninja turtles, and we both agree that loving ninja turtles is essential for our relationship to work, then we’re going to be a good match.»
If intense psychological scrutiny isn’t your thing, you might want to check out some representatives of the second, younger school of mobile love. These apps are more likely to be location-based, facebook-integrated, and short on the types of personality questions that power their algorithm-intensive competitors.
As one A.P. reporter put it, «newer apps offer a sense of immediacy and simplicity that in many ways harkens back to the good old days of just walking up to a pretty stranger and making small talk.»
Tinder is probably the most well-known example of this genre, and if you haven’t heard of it yet you’re probably still using OkCupid, Match, or Plenty of Fish. Tinder broke the mold with a novel swipe mechanic that makes looking through matches almost addictive. If you’ve ever swiped right to like and swiped left to ditch, it’s because of Tinder.
New breath changing the game for the better
One common criticism of dating apps is their seeming abstraction from everyday life, with detractors pointing out that neither intensive questionnaires nor full-screen profile pics are really ‘organic’ ways to get to know someone.
French startup Happn’s raison d’être is bringing the real world back into mobile dating apps with a location-based system that lets users know when they cross one another’s path. If you’re sitting at the same café as another Happn user, his or her profile will appear on your newsfeed. It’s up to you whether to initiate a conversation by sending that user a «charm,» or return to your coffee and croissant.
What makes this app special is its emphasis on serendipity. As Happn’s CEO Didier Rappaport told TechCrunch, «The newsfeed personalization is really important. It’s based on real life and this is key. It could be people you’ve crossed paths with and that you really wanted to see on Happn, it could also be someone you came across 44 times because you live in the same area.»
But what if the cute girl in buddy-holly glasses at the other end of the cafe isn’t on Happn? Then there’s Heyy, an iOS app that helps people get in touch with «missed connections.» Even if you’re not trying to track down the one who got away, you can still post a «Heyy» with a picture and message, and see who responds.
Read also: Tastebuds app combines dating and music
There is Uber for everything, even…hook ups
If proximity (and hooking up) is what you’re into, there are indeed plenty of fish in the proverbial sea. Pure, an invitation-only iOS app which markets itself as «Uber for dates,» provides the perfect mechanism for discreet adult encounters by letting its users share pictures and set up a date. There’s no secret here; Pure is for people who would rather cut to the chase than wade through match percentages.
Down takes a similar approach by giving you the chance to tell your Facebook friends that you’d like to get ... more intimately acquainted with them. Awkwardness is averted by a double opt-in system, whereby you only find out if someone thinks you’re hot if you feel the same about them.
The hook-up-centric nature of a lot of dating apps has prompted some start-ups to build products which cut through the sleaze, and give users the chance to put themselves out there without having to either share too much personal info or get harassed by creepy dudes.
One of the most reliable anti-creep methods yet to be employed is social network integration, a strategy employed by Tinder, Down, and Hinge, and almost every other new dating app to hit the scene. The benefit of social network integration is that users are, at least, in theory, only being matched with acquaintances or 2nd degree friends.
One Hinge user told The New York Times, «I’ve met up with someone on Hinge because you have mutual friends, so you can be 80 percent sure they’re not a full-on wacko.» Another user interviewed for the same piece mentioned that, because users are connected via mutual friends, they’re incentivized to be on their best behavior.
How dating apps look from a feminist perspective
Some app users, though, might find all of this reliance on social network integration a little troubling. That’s where Siren comes in.
The brainchild of Susie Lee, a Seattle-based visual artist, Siren markets itself as being a «socially evolved» dating platform built by women, for women. A female user’s profile is, by default, invisible, and revealed only after she has chosen to initiate contact with another user.
Siren has a couple of features which are sure to make it a hit once it leaves the Pacific Northwest. These include a ‘question of the day’ which helps spur communication between users, and the ‘Siren Call’, which is basically an open invitation to meet up that women can send to one or more users.
Siren isn’t the only app out there to approach the dating scene from a more feminist perspective. Bumble, which launched last December, works almost exactly like Tinder with the caveat that women must initiate the conversation. Once the first move is made, a user has 24 hours to start a chat with match before the connection disappears from her feed.
No dating after marriage?
With all this talk about dating apps, we should probably devote a little time to those of us who have already stumbled, or bumbled, onto matrimonial bliss. You might be thinking that wedding vows mark the end of dating app’s efficacy, but you’d be wrong. And no, I’m not talking about Ashley Madison’s mobile app.
I’m thinking about Wink.ms, which bills itself as a flirting app for couples. Though it’s still only available in beta, Wink offers a lot of the excitement that makes dating apps so exciting. Some of its features include self-destructing photos that disappear after ten seconds, the ability to set challenges for your partner and rewards should they complete them, and «couple’s currency» to help keep track of who owes whom a favor.
If you’re one of the 60% of «single and lookings» out there who haven’t tried mobile dating, it might be time to give it a shot. There’s probably something out there for you no matter what you’re into and who you’re looking for. Maybe, as the song says, you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places. Time to power up your phone and find the right one.
In case you would like to build your own startup in the dating area, we’d be glad to help you develop apps for iOS and Android. We have enough experience here. All you need to do is send us a note!