Match Group, which manages app appointments like Tinder and OkCupid, completed the acquisition of the 7-year Hinge app on Thursday, after the purchase of a majority stake in June 2018.  For years, Hinge has positioned herself as an alternative to Tinder, a way to get away from the superficiality and disappointment of flipping the profiles of business cards into an endless carousel. The self-proclaimed "relationship app", Hinge matched people based on their mutual friends, was presumably "designed to be erased" and prized love as a core value of society, purposefully decentralizing gamification so centralized to run apps but never enough after the advanced matchmaking algorithm promises Match.com or OkCupid.
At the moment, it seems that in the near future all the major dating apps end up in the same hands, just one of the many industry consolidation stories we are witnessing in what Tim Wu called the second age Gilded, which is perhaps abstractly scary, but more tangibly when you think of Facebook as the only company that can stop it.
What is Hinge, and why does Match Group want it?
App dating industry is extremely lucrative, especially now that app makers have figured out how to monetize all of their individual characteristics: Match's fourth quarter earnings for 2018 have shown that Tinder added 1.2 million of new users in the past year, and that has brought revenues for 805 million dollars, more than double the year before. In total, the Match Group yielded around $ 1.7 billion, a fairly large share of a growing cake. Analysts estimate that the global dating app market will be worth around $ 12 billion annually by 2020.
The empire of appointments owned by the umbrella company InterActiveCorp (IAC) was founded in 1995, with Match.com as a cornerstone. He also manages the study guide and the university rating company Princeton Review, and now has over 45 activities related to dating, including 25 acquisitions. After its incorporation in 2009, it began aggressively acquiring acquisitions, including OkCupid in 2011, then Plenty of Fish in 2015 – four months ahead of its initial public offering, which was valued at $ 2.9 billion. Her crown jewel is Tinder, which was developed by IAC Hatch Labs' internal incubator and launched in 2012.
Hinge, on the other hand, almost failed at launch. Founder Justin McLeod said he ended his first year with only a few thousand users and $ 32,000 in the bank. It has not seen a rapid growth of users until 2014, relying in particular on the marketing that has distinguished it as an alternative to Tinder. While Tinder did his best to satisfy users with strangers, Hinge proposed that it would be slightly less alienating and confusing if your games were based on common Facebook friends.
In 2015, it was a success, and McLeod claimed to have organized 35,500 dates and 1,500 reports a week. But the app was terribly ugly, and was criticized for calling for an elite push to abandon the masses of Tinder and migrate to something more insular. It did not look like something the company was trying to hide. A spokesman for Hinge told Dylan Matthews of Vox at the time: "Zipper users are college educated at 99 percent, and the most popular industries include banks, consulting, media and fashion." We recently found 35,000 users attending Ivy League schools. "
And although the user base was growing, McLeod told Vanity Fair that user satisfaction has steadily decreased. The company interviewed its users at the end of 2015 and found that 54% of its users reported "feeling lonely" after sliding their finger, and that 81% had never found a relationship to long term. Hinge published his findings with a vibrant push press, calling it "The Dating Apocalypse." The app had a great visual review, and was re-launched in October 2016 with a monthly fee of $ 7 intended to eliminate the unimpressive. The new profiles included both photos and "icebreakers": a series of personal questions from which users could select three to reply and view on their profiles. Above all, they were arranged in a vertical roll.
"We swiped left on the swiping," the company announced. "Instead of … collecting matches, people engage with rich stories on your profile for more humane conversations, it's like Instagram profiles for dating." And then: "$ 7 is less than your monthly Netflix membership or Spotify, and not even close to the cost of eHarmony ($ 60 a month) or Match.com ($ 42 a month), but it's enough to make sure everyone is on the same page and not just using Hinge for entertainment. "
But within a month it offered users free lifetime membership for all users, and by 2017 the free level was back for everyone. Today, the main differences between the free and premium versions are the filter options. The free app allows users to filter by gender, position, age, height, ethnicity and religion. Hinge Preferred – which is still $ 7 a month – adds more filters for politics, drinking, smoking, using drugs, if someone has children and if they want children. It also comes with unlimited likes and access to "Hinge Experts" to help you design your profile.
While Tinder can boast of the fact that it is the top-cashing revenue app and the second-tier app app in the app store, Hinge's website prides itself on being the 39; "mobile-first" dating app most often mentioned in the New York Times wedding section (It's not doing much for the elitism charges there, but it's catchy.) This is not the only way Hinge is different from Tinder – collects better data. It's a more robust app and knows more about its users. It allows them to set "Dealbreakers" on some filters, emphasizing how serious they are about never going out with a person of a religion or a certain height.
Use what defines "machine learning algorithm" to choose one person per day as the most compatible and stimulate forward conversations with an "anti-ghosting" function of your turn. In particular, in October 2018, Hinge launched "We Met", which asks users to provide feedback on the dates of real life in which they were. This information is presumably used to improve the matchmaking algorithm, and the Hinge website states, "What we learn from" We Met "will only be used to improve the algorithm and ensure that the Hinge community remains safe and respectful . "
However, a lot of data on people who have chosen a middle ground between Tinder's ruthless sliding game and the serious business of Match.com is valuable to Match and could potentially be used to steer product decisions into all his wallet.
Bumble is the one who managed to escape and the last remaining competitor of Match Group … up to Facebook Dating
The managing director of Match Mandy Ginsberg explained the acquisition of Hinge from Match stating that it is "very relevant, especially among the millennial and educated women who seek
An interesting and somewhat pointed choice of words given the failed attempt of Match Group to acquire Bumble – the first app for women led by Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd in 2014, when Herd was fixing a lawsuit sexual harassment with her former employer.
The Match Group sued Bumble in the March 2018 for stealing his intellectual property, ie the functionality of Tinder, Ten days later, Bumble filed a patent infringement complaint, stating that Match Group pretended to be interested in acquiring in the summer of 2017 only to get access to privileged information and to steal trade secrets, as well as "[chill] the market for an investment in Bumble. "Bumble also bought a whole New York Times page and used it to call Match Group a" bully ", adding:" We swap your finger on your multiple attempts to buy, copy and, now, to intimidate us. "
Bumble later dropped his counter-set, but did nothing to improve relations between the two companies, Match accused Bumble of engineering the whole drama" [a] a hook to start promoting the fact that Bumble was trying to conduct an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. "Bumble told the Verge that he still believed Match was" determined to try to compromise the business itself was so desperate to buy. "This is not exactly the most dirty technological start-up battle of the last 10 years, but it should not be neglected.
Neither the consolidation of power by the Match Group and the questionable stifling of competition, even if it is unlikely to concern the Federal Trade Commission.
"For startups of events, the resistance against IAC is futile," wrote Wired Issie Lapowsky in 2014, reflecting on the acquisition of HowAboutWe, a company with based in New York that had tried to avoid selling to Match Group diversifying its revenues with an editorial arm. Two months later, the company had been sold for Match after all. In a 2018 interview with Kara Swisher from Recode, Ginsberg, the CEO of Match, emphasized that his company also owns OurTime, the most popular dating app especially for people aged 50 and over ; and BlackPeopleMeet, the most popular dating app for blacks; and recently launched BLK "for young African-American millennials" as well as Chispa, "a great partnership with Univision to attract the Latin community."
He said that Match Group is increasing its portfolio globally at any time, filling gaps with acquisitions and, meanwhile, "Every person who is 18, 19, 20 years old should be on Tinder … we really want to be integrated into the social life of individuals, especially when they are young. "
Consolidation in the app industry for appointments does not seem as urgent as consolidation in areas such as social media or retail or drugs, and if the FTC is committed to working on nerves and resources to do anything on Facebook, it's definitely more important. Although, ironically, Facebook has recently started testing its app for appointments – no doubt the only new space project that could threaten Match's dominance. Facebook already has the largest social network map in human history, with over 2 billion active users. We are rushing towards an increasingly monopolized future, where the only challenges come from other pre-existing monopolies.