Is the hinge dating app real?

Number 1 in online dating - The love giant on the Internet

They are called Tinder, OkCupid, Match, Meetic or Pairs, and they are all supposed to spark a spark between two people using algorithms. Be it with a simple swiping gesture on Tinder, or with multiple-choice questions on OkCupid that users invent themselves, such as "Do you like to shave your partner's pubic hair?"

From the dial-up modem to the smartphone

The selection process for candidates varies by platform, but Tinder, OkCupid and Co. have one thing in common: They all belong to the match group, which occupies around a third of the online dating market. A third means: 6.4 million paying users worldwide use products from the Match Group, which made a profit of 350 million dollars last year.

The Match Group's oldest brand is Match.com, founded in 1995 and one of the first dating sites on the fledgling Internet of the 1990s. Around twenty years later, the Internet is mobile, and so now the strongest draft horse is Tinder. The smartphone app is particularly popular with younger audiences, but it has also fallen into disrepute for only being used for quick sex. The most popular mobile dating app with the typical swiping gesture has existed since 2012, but the match group has had a majority share since 2014.

Growing through purchasing

That is the central strategy of how the match group secures its position as the top dog in dating: buy existing platforms. This is particularly evident in the history of some dating brands:

  • The French Meetic, one of the largest dating platforms in Europe, was added in 2009.
  • In 2011 the group bought OkCupid, a dating platform for “geeks” that relied on big data analyzes of its user base at an early stage.
  • PlentyOfFish joined the match group in 2015 and primarily serves an audience in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the USA.
  • Pairs, also bought in 2015, is aimed at an Asian audience.

But the match group is not alone. Rather, it belongs to an even larger company, the IAC / InterActiveCorp. It began in the mid-1980s as the Silver King Broadcasting Company and, in a similar strategy, bought numerous Internet companies over the course of the 2000s.

In addition to video sites (Vimeo, Daily Burn), craft mediation (Angi Homeservices), software and online publishing (The Daily Beast, Ask.com), online dating is the most important source of income: With sales of 1.3 billion US dollars the match group the purest cash cow for IAC, with increasing revenues and increasing growth, especially with Tinder.

Premium division, advertising - and data

The direct income comes primarily from subscription costs or one-time payments to unlock additional options. For example, Tinder Plus enables an unlimited number of swiping gestures for around $ 10 a month, OkCupid an invisible profile or better visibility in the sea of ​​candidates.

Another point is the online advertising that is displayed in the free versions of the match group. And here begins the part in which the dating giant is reluctant to make statements: trading in user data. According to the 2017 annual report, link opens in a new window, this is only a small percentage.

But that doesn't explain everything: The data protection regulations, link opens in a new OkCupid window, for example, indicate that user data is shared, but not to what extent. A user's data is shared with all other brands in the Match Group, but also with third parties. This also includes advertising networks and analysis platforms, such as the Facebook advertising network. It is not clear to what extent the user data is also shared with the parent company IAC - a request from SRF remains unanswered.

Love data trading and GDPR

Studies by non-governmental organizations indicate that sometimes more data could be shared with third parties than users are aware of due to data protection regulations. In February, the Stiftung Warentest analyzed 22 apps to what extent they reveal more about the user than necessary. Only five apps were acceptable from a data protection point of view. The applications examined also included several in the match group.

In February 2017, Privacy International asked in a public letter, Link will open in a new window, to what extent the Match group shared data with its parent company - and has so far received no response. The Berlin collective Tactical Tech described in a detailed article, Link opens in a new window at the beginning of July, how dating data migrates from company to company. The article also provides a number of tips on how users can still use their dating profiles responsibly.

Because online dating is an insoluble dilemma: On the one hand, we want to feed the platforms as much personal information as possible in order to get the best possible match. On the other hand, we cannot see to what extent all this information is used. At the end of May, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation GDPR came into force, which can have far-reaching consequences for the EU and Switzerland. To what extent this affects dating apps remains to be seen.

Space for niches

The match group is the top dog in online dating. No one can hold a candle to her in terms of income and size, her products are among the most visited dating sites in the world. The match group should continue to grow due to the network effect: A platform with many members will attract even more members. Because nothing turns off more than a dating platform on which the same ten potential partners are repeatedly suggested to users because there are no more users.

Nevertheless, there is still room for niche platforms that target a local market or those that advertise with specific selection algorithms. In May, Facebook announced its own dating app within the Facebook platform, and in June the match group bought another platform, Hinge. The Parship platform, which has belonged to the ProSieben-Sat.1 media group since autumn 2016 and is one of the best-known in German-speaking countries, is also flourishing.

Because the industry has great growth potential: The stigma that has long attached to online dating is slowly disappearing. At the same time, a whole generation comes of age that is constantly online. Young people who grew up with smartphones will be 18 years old in the near future - the age limit to be able to use the services at all, according to Tinder & Co. So it is not surprising that a US investigation, Link opens in a new window, found: In the last two years, the use of online dating platforms between 18-24 year olds has tripled.

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