Up until now dating apps, not to be confused with online dating websites, have had a male heavy demographic—that is, until Tinder came along. Tinder is the latest in a slew of location based hook-up partner finding apps that use GPS to locate future sex-mates. It's like Grindr for straight people. But, it's different than Blendr, the other "Grindr for straight people," and the dozens of others of dating apps out there in one critical aspect: women are actually using it. Tinder's founders bragged to us about the number of female users when it launched last October, and though they didn't have fresh numbers, the app has received a lot of vocal approval from women online, including female New York Times tech writer Jenna Wortham, who says "there’s something about Tinder’s simple, flirty interface that is undeniably fun." This acceptance might have something to do with the fact that unlike every other hook-up app out there, which were birthed by men, as Ann Friedman notes in The New Yorker, one of its four founders, Whitney Wolfe, is a woman.
So far hook-up apps haven't catered to women because they lack certain protections that the XX-demographic likes when meeting potential sexual partners, argues Friedman: "women want authenticity, privacy, a more controlled environment, and a quick path to a safe, easy offline meeting." Perhaps because of its single female voice, Tinder offers a lot of those things mostly by way of Facebook. The app syncs up with the social network in a "cleverly discreet" way, as Wortham puts it. It uses all the data and information people put into the social network, without broadcasting anything to the rest of the social network. With that, the app "successfully manages to decrease the creepiness of communicating with strangers ten-fold," write two women on NYU Local. Here's how:
Authenticity: Facebook's vehemence when it comes to real names and (general) culture of actual identities ensures that what you see is what you get. "It connects through your Facebook so it made me feel a little more secure with the people being real," admitted Her Campus's Meghan Cramer while reviewing the app. While one could encounter a Catfish situation, it's a lot less likely because Tinder also uses this Facebook data to link people up with mutual friends. If something suspicious comes up, just ask that mutual friend, who can confirm or deny that they know this is a real-life person.
Privacy: The app accesses all of your Facebook information, something that is "typically a turnoff for people who don’t want to accidentally see the profiles of their colleagues or worry about embarrassing notifications popping up on their Timeline," as Wortham explains But, in exchange for that, it promises not to shamelessly promote itself on your timeline.
A More Controlled Environment: The app only lets people who have mutually liked each other (based mostly on their photo) message each other. Meaning: "No more OkCupid troll sending you message after message promising dick pics if you give him your phone number," as NYU Local's Caroline Hayes and Chelsea Beeler put it. In fact, the photos it chooses to show come up in a more controlled way because of its relationship to Facebook. In addition to location, shared interests, friends, and other Facebook things are what determine who you see.
Safe, Easy, Offline Meeting: Here's the part that Tinder doesn't quite offer. The location aspect of the app ensures the person is close-by, making meeting up easy. As for the safety part, that's a little harder. Again, the mutual Facebook friend thing makes checking out the person's credibility a little easier. Anecdotally, I've had friends tell me they've met up with people on Tinder in groups at bars, at first.
People are certainly using the app. 1.5 billion profiles have been rated or ranked, according to Wortham, it has seen 20,000 daily downloads since October and has itself a four star rating in the iTunes store. 70 percent of its matches have led to chat conversations on the app. After that, it's unclear where those connections lead. Tinder doesn't follow up after-that. But, would people keep using the app just to chat with strangers close by? Probably not. The act of swiping through potential hook-ups might be addictive enough to keep people interested short term.
This post previously appeared on The Wire.