Tinder launches a new a la carte option, Super Boost, only for subscribers

Tinder this morning announced a second, more premium version of its most popular a la carte purchase, Boost, with the launch of Super Boost — an upgrade only offered to Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold premium subscribers. The idea with the new product is to extract additional revenues out of those users who have already demonstrated a willingness to pay for the dating app, while also offering others another incentive to upgrade to a paid Tinder subscription.

Similar to Boost, which puts you on top of the stack of profiles shown to potential matches for 30 minutes, Super Boost also lets you cut the line.

Tinder says the option will be shown to select Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold subscribers during peak activity times, and only at night. Once purchased and activated, Super Boost promises the chance to be seen by up to 100 times more potential matches. By comparison, Boost only increases profile views by up to 10 times.

Also like Boost, Super Boost may not have a set price point. Tinder prices its products dynamically, taking into account various factors like age, location, length of subscription, and other factors. (Tinder’s decision to up its pricing for older users led to an age discrimination class action lawsuit, which the company eventually settled. This limits its ability to price based on age, but only in California.)

The company hasn’t yet settled on a price point — or range — for Super Boost, but is now testing various options in the select markets where the feature is going live. Super Boost is not broadly available across all Tinder markets nor to all premium subscribers at this time, as the company considers this a test for the time being.

The addition, if successful, could have a big impact on Tinder’s bottom line.

As Tinder’s subscriber base grows, its a la carte purchases do the same — the company even noted they reached record levels in Q4 2018, when it also disclosed that a la carte accounts for around 30 percent of direct revenue. Boost and Super Like are the most popular, and Tinder has for a long time hinted that it wants to expand its menu of a la carte features as it grows.

During the first quarter of 2019, Tinder’s average subscribers were 4.7 million, up from 384,000 in the previous quarter and 1.3 million year-over-year. Its most recent earnings also topped estimates, thanks to Tinder’s continued growth, bringing parent company Match Group’s net income across its line of dating apps to $123 million, or 42 cents a share, up from $99.7 million, or 33 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

That said, the decision to monetize a user base against a built-in algorithm bias may be a long-term riskier bet for Tinder and other dating apps, who are already the subject of much cultural criticism thanks to articles lamenting their existence, damning documentaries, their connection to everything from racial discrimination to now eating disorders, as well as studies that demonstrate their unfair nature — like this most recent one from Mozilla.

For the near-term, dating app makers reliant on this model are raking in the profits due to a lack of other options. But there’s still room for a new competitor that could disrupt the status quo. Had Facebook not waited until its name had been dragged through the mud by way of its numerous privacy scandals, its Facebook Dating product could have been that disruptor. For now, however, Tinder and its rivals are safe — and its users will likely continue to pay for any feature offering them the ability to improve their chances.

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A dating app for literal monsters exposes the bias in our swipes

Are you ready to find love?
Are you ready to find love?
Image: monstermatch

Sure, online dating is a hellscape. But in this new online dating game, that’s a good thing.

Developer Ben Berman and designer Miguel Perez created a game that seeks to expose the inherent bias that fuels dating app matching algorithms. The pair are winners of Mozilla’s Creative Media Awards, which enabled the work.

The best part of the game, besides the admirable mission and all, is that the game is based around a dating app — for monsters.

Which monster will you choose?

Which monster will you choose?

Image: Monstermatch

The new game/dating app simulator is called MonsterMatch. Yep, the name rocks. The simulator launched Wednesday, and you can play it here.

Berman said that he chose monsters to make his point about algorithmic bias because the jarring uniqueness of the monsters allows users to reconsider their ordinary experiences.

“People are so wonderfully different that monsters let me capture it better than using real pictures,” Berman said. “I wanted to use monsters to exaggerate the diversity we lose when algorithms ‘guess’ what we’re really looking for.” 

When you open the simulator, you’re prompted — as in all dating apps — to create a profile. Choose a body: would you prefer to be an arachnid, a demon, or some other globulous form? Would you prefer that your eyes be X’s, or creepy orbs? I named my lady of the night “Susie Spider.”

She's complicated, okay?

She’s complicated, okay?

Image: screenshot: rachel kraus/mashable

Once you’ve created your persona, MonsterMatch will surface other creatures for you. You can swipe yes or no on characters like a needy vampire or a dunking demon. Then, if you’ve got a match, you’ll get to chat with your fellow monster or monstress — and see if your connection is more than fur, scale, or tentacle deep.

The biggest difference from traditional dating apps beyond the monsters (which, let’s be real — is not so different!) is that the app will give you little knowledge tidbits about how your swipes might predict your future outcomes. 

“When you play through the game, pay close attention to how the monsters look, because there’s an algorithm that’s always watching and making choices for you behind the scenes,” Berman said.

Dating app swipes can happen so fast, that sometimes, we may not even be conscious of who we’re saying yes or no to, beyond the few seconds it takes us to decide. 

“I’ve seen people swipe through Tinder and Bumble,” Berman said. “There are so many profiles and it goes by so fast it all becomes a blur. With monsters, I can make every profile cool and funny, like a unicorn that needs to meet virgins because those are literally the only people that can see unicorns.”

To emphasize all the unique individuals we — and subsequently the algorithm — bid farewell in a single swipe, MonsterMatch stops you in your tracks, and says, “hey, because you swiped yes on these three profiles, we will show you more like these monsters, and less like these other monsters.”

This concept, as illustrated through monster swiping, is called “collaborative filtering.” The same logic that gives you recommendations about the movies and books you like, based on what you’ve already downloaded, also governs the people you might like on dating apps. 

If only Tinder would let you know what's happening like this!

If only Tinder would let you know what’s happening like this!

Image: screenshot: rachel kraus/mashable

There are plenty of fishmonsters in the sea!

There are plenty of fishmonsters in the sea!

Image: monstermatch

Collaborative filtering may be extremely prevalent in our digital lives, but there’s a downside beyond the opportunity cost of missing out on love based on a single second of assessment. 

Studies have shown that collaborative filtering can exacerbate bias. Because algorithms take multiple factors into account, a dating app might start filtering out potential matches for troubling reasons that betray a person, or a machine’s, unconscious bias.

“Collaborative filtering can have unintended consequences, especially when the algorithm is recommending human beings and not just movies or products,” the developers’ blog post reads. “The algorithm can narrow options based on other people’s prior choices, in turn discriminating against racial, ethnic and sexual orientation minorities.”

Mashable reached out to Tinder and Bumble to get their take on how they mitigate racial bias when showing people matches. Tinder declined to comment, instead pointing Mashable to a blog post about its algorithm where it writes “We don’t care (or store) whether you’re black, white, magenta or blue…  we think the party gets better when great people, from all walks of life, can get together. Our algorithm is designed to be open and we love our results.”

Berman hopes that the app will get people to think a bit differently about the algorithms that run our love lives, and our lives in general. But he also co-created MonsterMatch to give people a chance to commiserate with the ridiculous highs and lows of meeting monsters online, whether imagined, and real.

“Dating apps are a real slog sometimes,” Berman said. “This game lets you vent that frustration a little on a pretentious Elf who messaged you or a sex-crazed giant Venus flytrap who just won’t leave you alone.”

Who hasn’t been there, right?

UPDATE: May 22, 2019, 6:18 p.m. EDT 

This article has been updated to include additional context from Tinder about its algorithm.

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Tinder is preparing to launch a lightweight version of its dating app called ‘Tinder Lite’

Tinder is preparing to launch a version of its popular dating app aimed at users in emerging markets. The app, which will be called “Tinder Lite,” offers a smaller, more lightweight version of the current flagship app, the company says. Smaller app size is a defining characteristic of most of today’s “Lite” apps, which are specifically focused on addressing the unique needs of users in areas where data usage, bandwidth, and storage space is a concern.

Most major tech companies now offer “Lite” apps for the large and rapidly growing online user base coming from these emerging markets — and specifically India, as of late.

For example, Google has a full suite of lightweight “Go”-branded apps like Google Go, Gmail Go, Files Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go, and Google Assistant Go. There’s also Facebook Lite, Instagram Lite, Messenger Lite, Twitter Lite, Uber Lite, Spotify Lite, and even TikTok Lite, to name a few others.

Tinder, apparently, believes it too has reached the point of needing a Lite version, given the dating app’s traction and growth. While the company doesn’t share the size of its total user base, the Tinder app averaged 4.7 million paid subscribers in Q1, up by 1.3 million from the same time last year, parent company Match Group said this week when announcing its Q1 2019 earnings. In addition, the BBC estimated in 2017 that Tinder had around 57 million total monthly active users.

Match Group this week announced its plans for Tinder Lite for the first time during an earnings call with investors.

The company didn’t share an exact launch date for Tinder Lite, but according to Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg, the app is “coming soon.”

Ginsberg was speaking about the promise of Southeast Asia in particular when she mentioned Tinder Lite. She had noted that internet penetration had grown by nearly 15 percent in the region over the past five years, which made it a key area to target.

“This area has more than a dozen high-density cities with over a million people, and more young people are moving to large cities. These are really important factors that make the need for our app high,” she explained. “…We are excited about the Tinder Lite app that will be coming soon. It’s a big step forward addressing the needs of consumers there. Tinder Lite will be a smaller app to download. It will take less space on your phone, making Tinder more effective, even in more remote areas or regions. And keep in mind, these are regions where data usage still comes at a premium.” Ginsberg said.

Tinder already has a presence in in the key Indian market, and its parent company Match Group recently restructured its Asia-Pacific team with the aim of further growing its dating app brands, including Tinder, in the region.

Tinder Lite, like some of other “Lite”-branded apps from tech companies, may remove some of Tinder’s heavier features to focus on the core experience of swiping and matches. But the company hasn’t said what will or will not be included in the slimmed-down version.

“As a result of our continued investment and growth in this region, we expect that APAC will make up one-fourth of our company’s total revenue by 2023,” Ginsberg added.

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App stores pull dating apps after FTC warning about underage users

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You’d think that dating app developers would be sure to keep children from signing up, but that’s not always the case. Apple and Google have removed three Wildec dating apps (FastMeet, Meet24 and Meet4U) from their respective stores after the FTC found that the titles were allowing sign-ups from kids under 13, violating COPPA and the FTC Act in the process. The developer was aware it had underage users, the FTC said, and there were “several” people who’d faced criminal charges for contacting kids through these apps.

The warning urged Wildec to “immediately remove” personal info for children, to ask for parents’ permission before allowing access by minors, and to make sure all its apps honor COPPA and the FTC Act. They’ll be allowed back on their respective stores if and when the creator makes the appropriate changes.

It’s not certain if Wildec will comply. Whether or not it does, this is a reminder that issues with underage users aren’t necessarily limited to apps known to have younger audiences — it can be a problem with any software or site that doesn’t have proper age checks.

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Tinder wants to help you find a Bonnaroo boo

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Tinder is rolling out a new feature for summer music festival-goers looking for romance. The popular hookup app announced a “Festival Mode” that will let users sort through matches who are attending the same music festival. If you opt-in, your Tinder profile will receive a badge identifying you to other festival-goers.

In a finding that will surprise no one, Tinder says that activity on the app typically skyrockets during musical festivals. During the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival last year, usage of Tinder increased by 300 times in Manchester, TN (the region where the festival is held) compared to the previous month. We’ve seen this trend before — Tinder usage spiked during large-scale sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup, as well as spring break. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that large gatherings of young people, mostly from out-of-town, create an ideal environment for hookups.

“It’s no secret that Tinder is a must-have app for singles attending music festivals around the world. We consistently see a spike in Tinder use as tens of thousands of music fans come together, so we wanted to create a new experience that makes it easier to connect with other concert-goers before even setting foot on festival grounds,” said Jenny Campbell, CMO of Tinder in a statement.

Tinder will roll out its Festival Mode three weeks before an individual festival begins. The festivals that are participating this year include: Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and Orlando, Governors Ball, Parklife, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Lovebox, Faster Horses and HARD Summer. AEG’s festivals in the US and UK, including Hangout Fest, All Points East, Firefly and British Summer Time, are participating as well. Depending on the event, users of Festival Mode can also access free events, VIP upgrades and other promotions.

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