If you’re tired of seeing the same profiles in your dating app, you might be tempted to try a different one. After all, there are a lot of them out there: Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, the League — apps that are all marketed differently and are supposed to provide distinct experiences. But have you ever wondered why using them feels the same?
In episode two of Land of the Giants: Dating Games, we’re diving into the backstory of Match Group, the company that helped start online dating in the ’90s and now owns most of the dating-app market. Match became a giant under the leadership of a billionaire entertainment mogul, whose directive was to aggressively eat the competition: It bought OkCupid and Plenty of Fish in the 2010s, incubated Tinder, and purchased Hinge, the “anti-Tinder,” in 2018.
Today, Match is a dating-app conglomerate with millions of users and over 45 brands around the world. These brands use the same business model based on subscriptions and in-app features — like Hinge’s “roses” and Tinder’s “super likes” — that promise users a leg up in the dating game.
“When you send a rose, you have a far higher chance of getting a response and getting into a conversation than you don’t,” says Amarnath Thombre, CEO of Match Group Americas. “We are constantly looking at ways to give users a way to enhance their chance at succeeding on the app,” he adds. “That’s something that users are always willing to pay for.”
But while these “superpowers” make Match Group a lot of money — in 2021, for example, Tinder earned $1.7 billion — users are wondering if they get them any closer to connecting with real-life people. “It seems like these apps are improving on taking our money and making us spend more time on their apps than they are matching us with people” said one dater. “Nothing has come from it at all,” said another dater of spending hundreds of dollars on dating apps. “It’s like: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I need to get off this app.”
Listen to the latest episode of Land of the Giants: Dating Games, a co-production between the Cut, The Verge, and the Vox Media Podcast Network. You can catch new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.