Sex, love, and other mysteries in the city your mother warned you about.
To rebuild Hinge, a relatively small dating app that's often invoked as an alternative to Tinder, the company first plans to destroy it. The app, which has decent brand recognition and a mostly positive reputation, will automatically update on October 11, becoming a paid monthly membership with legacy users extended a one-month free trial. Also on the new Hinge, which has rebranded as "the relationship app," the company announces there will be no more swiping, the right-left "hot-or-not" format popular across many similar apps. All these changes reflect a company positioning itself in a dating app ecosystem, where different apps, like particular bars with distinct vibes and cultures, attract groups of like-minded users, hypothetically, at least, in order to make better matches.
Based in New York, Hinge launched in San Francisco in 2014, presenting a similar format to Tinder — integrating with Facebook to get pictures — but with an added emphasis on finding matches with Facebook friends in common. Hinge also prominently lists education and employment on users' profiles, implicitly prioritizing these traits in its culture.
On Tinder, users can casually swipe through hundreds of profiles before coming up against limits like a depleted pool of potential matches or an explicit swipe-limiter (which combats completely mindless swiping or auto-swiping programs). By contrast, Hinge provides users with "batches" of potential matches, sort of like The League. Consider it "small batch" dating, then, with an emphasis on giving each profile a good once-over and then moving on with your day. That, apparently, wasn't enough: "Dating apps have become a game, and with every swipe we've all moved further from the real connections that we crave," reads an email to users announcing the change. "We, as a team that believes in and fights for relationships, are over the games, including the ones we created. It turns out, most of you are as well."
Part of the rollout for the new Hinge involves a creepy website that alludes to "the dating apocalypse," with images of a seemingly haunted theme park (and unsettling auto-play carnival music). Beside a ferris wheel that reads "cycle of loneliness" appear spooky research findings and quotes. According to an internal survey of Hinge users, for example, 81% have never found a long-term relationship on a swipe-based app, and only 1 in 500 swipes result in phone numbers being exchanged.
Okay: Dating apps have definitely changed the way people date, partly by emphasizing the abundance of potential dates in cities. While that has costs and benefits, to dismiss anything that doesn't rise to the formal category of relationship, as Hinge appears to do, seems a little old-fashioned, no?
There may be other motivations. Hinge boasts $20.6 million in four funding rounds according to Crunchbase and it appears to have no revenue stream. Making money as a dating app — especially as a free one, as Hinge has heretofore been — is a notoriously difficult problem. After all, retaining users might appear at odds with the goal of getting users into relationships, and therefore off of apps. "Most of the dating apps out there are games designed to keep you single, and swiping is the most iconic feature of these games,” Hinge CEO Justin McLeod tells TechCrunch. While he doesn't say more about the format, he does add that the subscription cost will be similar to that of a Netflix account.
Wait, does this mean my friends' parents will pay for it?
Related: Eff-ing In SF, Vol. 7: How Do Dating Apps Make Money?