Tinder – How to build, grow, and create revenue with an app like Tinder

What’s Tinder? 

Tinder is a dating app launched in 2012. Since its inception, it evolved from a simple matchmaking app to a global cultural phenomenon. The app allows users to swipe through other accounts, based on photos, short bios, and mutual interest, in the search of love, friends, or just someone to chat with. 

When both users “swipe right” on each other’s profiles, they are added to a private chat and allowed to talk to each other. 

Tinder origins

Tinder was founded by: 

  1. Sean Rad, 
  2. Jonathan Badeen, 
  3. Justin Mateen, 
  4. Joe Munoz, 
  5. Dinesh Moorjani,
  6. Whitney Wolfe Herd.

Sean Rad, best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Tinder started his entrepreneurial journey when he was just 19, when he founded Orgoo, a communication platform. Sean created Tinder in order to revolutionize traditional dating norms and push a platform that will help tech-savvy millennials. 

Jonathan Badeen is the one who “invented” the swipe feature on Tinder. Serving as the CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) and co-founder, Badeen used his experience in UI/UX (user interface/user experience) to make Tinder as appealing as possible. 

Justin Mateen is one of the co-founders and played the role of the CMO (chief marketing officer). Before Tinder, he co-founded CoverCanvas. 

Joe Munoz, is one of the co-founders, with a background in tech and a love for complex problems that need to be solved. He was crucial in the building of the app’s code and infrastructure. 

Dinesh Moorjani was part of Hatch Labs, the incubator that helped Tinder. He worked as the General Manager of Hatch Labs at that time and helped with the business strategy of the app. 

Whitney Wolfe Herd, one of the founders of Tinder, was pivotal in pushing Tinder to one of the most important sectors, student campuses. After leaving Tinder, Whitney founded Bumble, a Tinder competitor that empowered women. 

A new item in pop culture, the swipe feature

Tinder’s main experience, the swipe, became a pop culture phenomenon. In the same way, you don’t search on the internet, but you “Google it” ” Tinder allows you to “swipe right” on people. 

This changed the entire dating scene in 2012 and beyond, making dating faster. If this was for the better or for the worse, that’s debatable. Nevertheless, Tinder managed to change the dating lives of millions of people. 

Of course, Tinder isn’t just about dating, as it expanded beyond this simple concept, allowing users to find friends and socialize.

Tinder Key Statistics

Let’s take a quick look at the main metrics and statistics of Tinder, to better understand where Tinder is now, before going in-depth into how Tinder got here. 

User Base and Engagement

  1. Active Users (AU): over 75 million users in 2023;
  2. Daily Swipes:  over 1.6 billion times a day;
  3. Matches: over 55 billion matches since launch (according to the info in their footer);
  4. Time Spent: The average user spends about 35 minutes daily on the Tinder platform.

Demographics

  1. Age Demographics: 45% of users are millennials, 38% are Gen Z aged between 16-24 years, and 13% come from the group situated between 35 and 44 years old. Only 1% of users are older than 55 years.
  2. Gender split: a known metric related to Tinder is the high male-to-women ratio. For each woman, you can find 3 men on the platform. 

Revenue

Tinder racked in over $1.79 billion in 2022, showcasing a 38x increase since their first public revenue information of $47 million in 2015. 

Tinder also delved into the ads industry, yet, its main revenue driver is still composed of their subscriptions and in-app purchases. 

App store ranking

Tinder is frequently the top-grossing non-gaming app on all app stores (this excludes banking and financial services apps). Tinder also boasts over 530 million downloads since its launch. 

History of dating apps

Online dating isn’t something that new. People have been finding dates on public online forums and chatting in real-time via mIRC since 1990. 

Yet, things started growing in this industry when specialized services appeared on the web. The first services were browser-based, being limited by the technology of that time. 

Match.com was launched in 1995 (and is still going strong) as the pioneer of online dating. Working in a similar way to Facebook or Instagram, the website allows users to create profiles, browse other accounts, and start discussions with potential partners. 

It helped the online dating industry as it provided one of the first online dating venues, where you knew exactly why people were on the website and random interaction between strangers was seen as socially acceptable. 

eHarmony (2000) presented the first “algorithm” for matchmaking. Users filled in a questionnaire and potential partners were found based on the answers provided. Because of this approach, many users flocked to the platform in search of “better matches”.  

Mobile dating apps appear in the third millennium

GPS is the father of dating, as it allows you to meet with people near you. You meet people online, yet find your love offline. All of this worked through location-based match-making, a feature that revolutionized the dating realm. 

Tinder wasn’t the first app to use this feature or to be launched on the market. Grindr, a dating app built around the LGBTQ+ community, was the first example of an app using this technology. Grindr was launched 3 years prior to Tinder, in 2009. 

In 2012, Tinder was launched, after being built at Hatch Labs and quickly became the leader of the market. 

Two years later, after the launch of Tinder, Bumble emerged, built by one of the founders of Tinder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, who left the company after a series of scandals. She built Bumble in order to empower women to make the first move. 

Once the market grew, more niche apps started showing up

Hinge was one of the first apps designed “to be deleted”. Its unique value proposition is that Hinge focuses on long-term relationships by highlighting the connection between people. 

Of course, after you find your loved one, you should uninstall Hinge. 

Another quality-based app is Coffee Meets Bagel. This app provides a curated list of matches every day. 

Finally, we have The League, an app built around professionals, where you can find people based on professional and social networks. 

Of course, many other apps appear all the time, catering to social, ethnic, or even religious groups.

Furthermore, we even have Tinder for pets.

How does Tinder work?

If you just look at the front end, you could probably build the “swipe” features and design in a day or 2 in something like React. Yet, beneath the simple design, you have a complex system that takes care of enormous databases, advanced algorithms, and geolocation. 

Standard Tinder features 

Geolocation: Tinder relies on the geolocation of its users, to push the right matches towards you. You can of course skip your own geolocation, as part of a premium feature, that allows you to talk with people in other cities/countries in advance, to have your dates set up before a vacation. 

Social account integration: Tinder was one of the first apps to allow Facebook signups, a feature that boosted their users immensely, as you could quickly create an account, without the fuss of adding an email, password, name, or profile image at the start. 

It also helped with importing extra data about you that could improve matches and minimize the number of bot accounts. 

Real-time messaging: Another feature of Tinder is the instant messaging between users after a match has been made. Through this, users can discuss with each other and potentially set a date to meet offline. 

Backend infrastructure: Tinder is being run through a combination of multiple technologies like Java, Node.js, Python, and Apache Kafka. 

How the Tinder algorithm works

Elo Score (deprecated): In the beginning, Tinder used a system known mainly to the gaming industry, the Elo Score. This score is used mainly to dictate the skill of a particular user and came from Chess, but quickly made its mainstream use in online gaming.

At Tinder, it wasn’t a matter of “skill”, but of other factors, such as: 

Yet, Tinder moved away from this system. 

Filtering via personal preferences: 

The simplest solution to the problem of showing the right people is to eliminate the ones that aren’t matching the preferences of the user. By filtering accounts according to factors like age, gender, and distance from the user, tinder was able to make their systems more efficient.

Swipe patterns: tinder will try to show you more people like the ones you swiped right in the past. (yet, if you just swipe right everybody, this feature won’t really help) 

Behavioral Analytics: tinder will analyze your behavior and take into account how much time you spend looking at profiles if you are interested in their bio and how you react to each individual profile. The data is then used to provide you with even better suggestions. 

Afterward, everything is being driven inside a feedback loop, the more you use Tinder, the better the app gets at showing the relevant profiles. Of course, they are relevant to you, yet, it won’t mean you will be relevant to them. A better recommendation engine doesn’t translate into matches, only in more people you want to swipe right on. 

How to build an app like Tinder?

A well-structured technical architecture plays a crucial role in the success of an app like Tinder. Some general best practices and guidelines that we recommend and generally use in approaching a similar project:

1. Modularization: Break down the app into modular components, such as authentication, user profiles, matching algorithms, and messaging. This promotes maintainability, reusability, and parallel development.

2. MVVM Architecture: Utilize or Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) patterns to separate concerns and make the codebase more organized and testable.

3. Networking: Implement a robust networking layer with RESTful APIs or GraphQL to communicate with the backend servers. Use libraries like Retrofit (Android) and Alamofire (iOS) for efficient network requests.

4. Database Management: Incorporate a database (SQLite/Core Data) to store user profiles, preferences, and chat history offline. Efficiently handle data caching and synchronization with the server.

5. User Authentication and Security: Prioritize user security by using OAuth or JWT for authentication. Implement encryption for sensitive data like user conversations.

6. User Experience: Ensure smooth user experience by optimizing app performance, minimizing loading times, and providing feedback through animations and transitions.

7. Responsive UI: Design adaptive layouts that work well across various screen sizes and orientations on both Android and iOS platforms.

8. Dependency Injection: Use dependency injection frameworks like Dagger (Android) and Swinject (iOS) to manage dependencies, promote testability, and reduce tight coupling.

9. Push Notifications: Integrate push notification services (Firebase Cloud Messaging for Android, Apple Push Notification Service for iOS) to engage users and provide timely updates.

10. Localization: Design the app architecture to support multiple languages and locales, allowing for a broader user base.

11. Caching Strategies: Utilize caching mechanisms to improve app responsiveness and reduce redundant network requests.

12. Background Processing: Implement background processing for tasks like data synchronization, ensuring that the app remains functional even when not in the foreground.

13. Analytics and Monitoring: Integrate analytics tools to gain insights into user behavior, app performance, and potential issues, allowing for data-driven optimizations.

14. Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD): Set up automated CI/CD pipelines to streamline development, testing, and deployment processes.

In summary, building a dating app like Tinder demands a thoughtful blend of coding best practices, architecture patterns, and platform-specific optimizations. By following these recommendations, you can establish a solid technical foundation that supports the app’s functionality, usability, and scalability while delivering a seamless and enjoyable user experience on both Android and iOS platforms.

Crucial Features to Prioritize for Seamless User Experience

Here are some recommendations on what features to prioritize initially when developing a Tinder-like application:

It’s important to note that launching an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with these core features allows you to gather user feedback and validate your app’s concept before investing in additional features. As your user base grows and you receive feedback, you can then prioritize and implement more advanced features like premium subscriptions, enhanced matching algorithms, advanced messaging features, social media integration, and additional monetization strategies.

Remember, the choice of features to prioritize should align with your app’s unique value proposition and target audience.

Tinder Revenue

As of 2022, Tinder announced a revenue of $1.79 billion, with an increase of 9% compared to the previous year. 

Most of the revenue generated by Tinder is coming from in-app purchases. Their main revenue streams are: 

After the advertisement was integrated into Tinder, all the paying customers were given an Ad-free experience. 

Of course, Tinder also has 2 more revenue streams besides the subscription services: 

In the case of one-time purchases, Tinder sells individual boosts to help you get more likes for the next 30 minutes and Super likes, which help you by telling the other users that you are really interested in them. 

Also, tinder allows ad placements inside the app, that act similar to the standard user swipe mechanism, when swiping right on an Ad, you are redirected to the client’s website. You can easily publish ads on Tinder through Meta’s (ex-Facebook) ads manager. 

Tinder Subscribers

Here we should define the “subscribers” as any recurring paying user (one-time purchases do not count). As such, Tinder has subscriber data only starting from 2015, when they launched the subscription business model. 

As a result of its mass adoption, Tinder grew from 300,000 subscribers in 2015 to around 10,900,000 subscribers in 2022. They saw a massive increase in 2019, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as users felt lonelier and it was way harder to meet in person. 

Considering they have around 75 Million users, around 15% of all Tinder active users are subscribers. 

How did Tinder market themselves at the start?

Tinder had a series of unique marketing strategies at the start, focusing on both online and offline marketing channels. 

College Marketing 

Considering one of their main clients was students, Tinder started sponsoring college parties. 

These strategies are used by brands that want to cater to younger audiences even today. 

Word of Mouth

By design, Tinder encouraged word-of-mouth marketing. When people matched or had interesting conversations, they often shared their experiences with friends, organically promoting the app.

Localized prices and translation

In order to leave the United States, tinder quickly worked on both translating the app into as many languages as possible and changing their prices depending on the region. 

Considering one of their main costs was marketing, if the new country had a lower spending power, they could support the price cut, as a result of cheaper marketing in the area. 

Conclusion

In the age of digitalization, Tinder emerged as a game-changer in the realm of online dating, quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon. From its conception in 2012, Tinder’s influence on the dating world is undeniable, revolutionizing how we perceive, approach, and engage in modern relationships.

This article delved deep into the history, foundation, and operations of Tinder – from its innovative swiping feature to its revenue models.

Through this in-depth exploration, we’ve come to understand the uniqueness of Tinder’s business model, its rapid rise to fame, and how it’s managed to sustain itself in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Key statistics unveiled the app’s colossal user base and engagement rates, while a glance at its revenue generation techniques shed light on its strategic monetization efforts.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur hoping to design the next groundbreaking app or an individual curious about the mechanics behind your favorite dating app, understanding the intricacies of Tinder offers invaluable insights into the world of app development and digital marketing.

At mReady, we harness these insights and apply them to create innovative and user-centric app solutions for our clients. We have a team of experts who understand the nuances of the digital realm and can assist you in bringing your vision to life.

 If you’re inspired by Tinder’s story and want to embark on your own digital journey, or if you simply need advice on app development and growth, we’re here to help. Reach out to mReady – let’s build, grow, and achieve success together! 

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