The history of human romance took a dramatic turn in 2013 when Tinder became accessible to everyone with a smartphone. Using mobile phone location, the app played Cupid by displaying profiles of people who were nearby and matched interests and search criteria. In comparison to dating services that had come before, Tinder made the process simple and fun by offering a gamified mobile experience that relied mostly on the power of swipes and photographs.
Following in Tinder's successful footsteps, numerous other dating apps appeared seemingly overnight, opening the doors to people across all demographics looking for casual dating, sex, or love. Nowadays, the dating app market constitutes an unstoppable social phenomenon, as evidenced by the sharp uptick in usage in the past several years. Currently, more than 1,500 apps exclusively for dating are available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. And while Tinder continues to dominate the online dating landscape with more than 75 million monthly active users, other dating apps have strengths of their own.
Bumble, Tinder’s top competitor, markets itself as a more women-friendly alternative to traditional dating apps by giving women the sole power of initiating online conversations. Considering that it took less than three years for Bumble to hit unicorn status, the experiment can be considered an unqualified success.
Another factor driving the popularity of online dating platforms is specificity. There are countless examples of apps flourishing due to their ability to fulfill the needs of a niche market. One of the first to do so was Grindr, a pioneer in the same-sex partner space – which recently announced it would go public in a $2.1 billion SPAC deal. Later, firms rushed to the market with specialized dating apps catering to users who knew precisely what they wanted: pet owners, runners, vegetarians, gamers, and even astrology enthusiasts, among others.
Nor did the success of dating apps slow down during the coronavirus pandemic. Rather, revenue growth increased during the pandemic as more Americans dealt with stay-at-home orders by searching for love online. Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge all reported a surge in users and time spent online last year. Before the pandemic, online dating was still largely centered around text-based communication. Then, when COVID-19 hit, many platforms started rolling out video dating features aimed at helping users forge relationships even when they were physically far away. According to the stats, nearly 50% of Tinder users video chatted with matches during the pandemic.
Looking forward, industry expectations remain high, as the trend of online dating continues to gain in popularity. For example, in 2020, 270 million adults used dating apps worldwide, which is almost double the number from the previous five years. In 2019, 39% of U.S. couples said they met online. As of May 2022, Match Group – which owns the largest global portfolio of popular online dating services, including Tinder, Match.com, Meetic, OkCupid, Hinge, and PlentyOfFish – boasts a staggering market cap just north of $21 billion. And this number is only likely to grow as more and more young adults, who spend a lot of their time online already, turn to dating apps in hopes of meeting romantic partners – especially after they leave formal educational settings, and the opportunities to meet new people in real life naturally decreases for them.
For many, this kind of explosive growth is not very surprising. As mobile applications have gained more ground in our day-to-day life, it's only natural for the technological revolution to make its way into the matters of the heart.