Dating can be an absolute nightmare. Trying to find Mr or Mrs Right is to experience near constant disappointment – and for many, it’s a stress-inducing race against time to find true love.
Perhaps that’s why dating app Tinder has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years. The simple tool has transformed the chore of dating into a cheeky game that requires little time and virtually no effort. Better yet, it doesn’t cost a penny – until now.
This week, developers are celebrating the launch of Tinder’s premium paid-for sister app: Tinder Plus. The frilly version comes with a whole host of new features, such as the ability to find partners in foreign countries, unlimited right-swipes, and a rewind button to recover lost love. For horny teens and overworked recent grads, those fancy features will cost as little as £3.99 a month. For those over the age of 28, Tinder Plus will set you back a whopping £14.99 per month.
Sound like age discrimination? That’s because it is – and it’s not going to do the app any favours, either.
It’s easy to see why the company has decided to go premium. Tinder isn’t a scruffy, idealistic startup. It was actually developed by the same online dating empire that brought us Match.com and OkCupid. To them, Tinder has been a brilliantly successful market research experiment. Now, it’s time to monetise the system. Yet the company’s rationale is a little obtuse.
Execs have argued that an age-based pay structure must be introduced as a sort of student discount that will allow skint kids to look for love without breaking the bank. Fair enough, you might think. Yet by charging silver foxes almost four times more than underage teens that probably shouldn’t be using this app in the first place, Tinder is effectively cashing in on our age-induced insecurities.
The best, worst, and most unusual dating sites
The best, worst, and most unusual dating sites
1/18 Clown Dating
"It's no fun looking for love when you're a clown, behind all the make-up and the red nose is a lonely heart. Clowns are unique entertainers loved by some yet feared and hated by others. Luckily Clown Dating is here to help."
2/18 Dead Meet
"A dating networking site for death industry professionals"
"Tinder is the fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you. Swipe right to like or left to pass. If someone likes you back, it’s a match!"
4/18 Plenty of Fish
The largest dating site has over 90 million users
5/18 Ashley Madison
Ashley Madison "offers services to married folks looking for something on the side". It already has over a million members, as chief executive Noel Biderman said that British adults were most likely to have an affair than in other comparable countries
6/18 Sea Captain Date
Sea Captain Date website claims to be the only place for Sea Captains to connect with men and women who share a love of the ocean
Those on a more serious quest for love tend to choose the UK’s largest dating site for professionals such as E-Harmony, which has a huge list of compatibility criteria on which it pairs its users
8/18 Feet Dating
The cybersphere also boasts a plethora of dating sites for those who want to tailor their sexual fetishes like Feet Dating ("to please everyone who has a foot fetish")
9/18 Guardian Soulmates
"Soulmates community features thousands of smart, modern, independent people who are worth getting to know"
10/18 Singles with Food Allergies
The founder claims that dating can be a nightmare for those who suffer severe reactions, since popular venue choices so often include food and drink
11/18 Herpes Dating Service
"Living with HSV is something that initially may take some psychological adjustment for some patients. It does not mean the end of your sex life or that you will need to remain unmarried for the rest of your life."
Probably one of the most popular choices for tech-dating newbies
13/18 Miss Travel
Miss Travel website asks users to select from two options "attractive" and "generous", and pairs wealthy globe-trotters with hot companions
14/18 Pensioner Dating
Pensioner Dating offers a forum for "older people who want to meet new friends and companions"
Singleparents.ie is "Ireland’s number one dating site for single moms and dads"
16/18 S&M Dating
S&M Dating describes itself as a site for "beginners to the S&M and BDSM devotee"
17/18 Sugar Daddie
On the site, it says: "Sugardaddie.com is a high quality dating site for successful men who have financial security and confidence and attractive single women."
18/18 Uniform Dating
With more than 135,000 active users, Uniform Dating says each of their users receives an average of 22 winks and flirts each month
Think about it: not only do thirty-somethings have a lot more money to blow than your run-of-the-mill college student, but they’re also a lot more desperate to find a life partner. Youth is slipping away, their sex appeal is diminishing and parental demands for grandchildren are increasing in frequency. So, logic dictates these daters will be far more likely to fork over serious money for costly premium services. App developers know that, and they’re gambling on a substantial number of aging users hopping blindly onto the paywall bandwagon out of utter desperation.
To be honest, that’s probably a bet Tinder will end up losing.
Okay, so it’s worth pointing out that the free version of the app isn’t going anywhere (yet). But there are plenty of rumours swirling about concerning the introduction of adverts, and even a daily cap on the number of swipes you’re able to make. It makes perfect sense. By denying users the basic functionality to which they’ve grown accustomed, the company clearly hopes to push people onto its premium service. But if there’s one thing the internet hates, it’s getting pushed into a corner.
To a vast majority of young users, Tinder isn’t a serious dating platform worthy of time and money – it’s a sexually-motivated game that occasionally ends at third base. On some smartphones, it even gets automatically filed into your gaming folder. And whilst some addicts might be totally willing to pay a monthly fee in order to play that game, chances are most people will simply move on to the next big thing. In fact, data analysts at Morgan Stanley reckon no more than five or six percent of Tinder users will actually end up becoming paying members.
So, where does that leave us? On a precipice it seems. For the past couple of years, Tinder has been a fun, flirty way to spend a few minutes while you’re waiting for the bus. But now, developers want to change that game by cashing in on our deep-seated fears of dying alone. That’s not fun, it’s not sexy and it’s not great marketing. From where I’m standing, it looks like Tinder has just inadvertently bumped into its own self-destruct button – and so romantic app developers should be licking their lips. A huge market is about to open up.