In late March, Tinder made its “Passport" feature free for users across the world. At a time when several countries across the world were entering into a lockdown to prevent the spread of covid-19, “Tinder Passport" allowed users to choose any city and match with its Tinder users there. On 29 March, it reported over a whopping one billion swipes in a single day.
Buoyed by its success, the app will now be launching a free “Global Mode" feature next week. In a video call on 20 May, CEO Elie Seidman talked about dating for the digital native in the post covid-19 world, for whom “online dating" is just “dating". Tinder, which mostly filtered matches based on distance, will now be working towards fostering connections across the world.
What insights have you had from the Tinder use in the past few weeks?
We see three big trends inside of what’s happened. They’re somewhat covid-19 specific but they are an acceleration of trends we’ve already seen before.
One, for many members in the world, online dating and dating is the same. It’s just dating. Two, you can get emotional connections through the digital experience. (Our users) are very experienced in hanging out digitally. Now we’re seeing an acceleration of that because of social distancing. Third, which is very inspiring, we see people creating activities to create digital emotional connections to meet with new people. For example, cooking classes they’d do with another person online. Or trivia nights.
You rolled out Tinder Passport last month. Did the learning come from that?
We’ve been observing these ideas with our Gen Z users going back to 2017-18. When we gave Passport for free, we saw hundreds of millions of matches. It wasn’t just Delhi-Mumbai, it was Delhi-New York. The underlying thing is, connections happening digitally are real, it makes you feel good, heard.
What is Global Mode.
Say you’re in Los Angeles. We ask, “Are you interested in people locally or globally?" If you choose “Global", and if someone in London or Delhi also says “Global", we allow these people to connect. It’s still Tinder but it’s a global pool. The other thing is, we’re rolling out prompts. They help you start conversations. You’ll see us experiment with a variety of new things and activities to facilitate connections. So things like Swipe Night (a first-person interactive experience rolled out in the US last year) or a Trivia Night.
One argument is why start it at a time when social distancing is required and international travel is banned? If you connect with a person, you’d want to meet them, as you do.
I think a little differently. In the world we’re in, connecting to someone new for something more, there is a big range of definitions of what something more means. A majority of things that start on Tinder will want to end up in the physical world. But not for everyone. For Global Mode, where you end up connecting with someone three countries away, that is still a meaningful connection even if it never ends up in the physical world.
But we’re taking this responsibility very seriously. If you look at what we’ve done in US, we were giving guidance to our members to be really thoughtful. We ask our users to follow local (covid-19 specific) guidance.
There have been reports that you’re rolling out a video feature in the US. Will that be done globally?
We’ve accelerated our timeline for the one-to-one video feature that will roll out on a test basis to a small group of members by the end of June. I expect it’ll take the rest of the year for most members around the world to get.
It’s been 4-5 years that Tinder has been in the market [in India] but the image is still the same: it’s a hook-up app. How comfortable are you with that image?
I think of this as, how do you make Tinder that without judgement helps you find what you’re looking for? A lot of our members are between age 18-25. This is an important part of their life, at an important time of their life. A great thing Tinder has done is, it’s helped them be seen, heard, find connections and without judgement. That’s the important idea. We are all about acceptance.
The second part is, within that you find someone who accepts you for who you are, what can we do to get that connection better? The first wave of these apps, Tinder specifically, was finding a lot of people, creating a judgement free environment. The second wave is innovation on how you can connect.