The roses are gone and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate have been consumed, so it’s safe to say that another Valentine’s Day has once again been put to rest. However, while the greeting cards may have been replaced, that doesn’t mean that love nor the business of dating and matching are not still in full swing.
In fact, the dating industry is not only thriving but one of the biggest adopters in the latest technological innovations of our time. Market analysis into the online dating industry has taken off in the past five years, and it is about time we take a deeper dive into the technology behind modern love.
The intersection of technology and dating is nothing new, with the launch of Match.com in 1995, but the technological innovations behind modern dating apps are. With some believing the dating app industry could be worth up to $12 billion, many competitors have since entered the online dating arena.
So, why the sudden growth in interest in online dating? Well, millennials (those born 1981-1996) and Gen Zers (those born 1997-2012) have rapidly been coming of age and have been the key factor in driving demand for these products. In fact, from my company’s perspective, younger adults are also the ones creating these dating apps, with millennial business owners commissioning an overwhelming majority of the applications we developed.
Keeping sophisticated, tech-savvy users happy is no easy task. We’ll take a look at the tech advances needed to get to where these apps are today and how they’re likely to grow in the future.
Current Tech In The Dating Scene
The user interfaces for dating apps may look simple, but there is a great deal of complex logic going on in the background. Today’s users expect a personalized experience, and these apps use complex chains of technology to accomplish this.
Each app uses a matchmaking algorithm. These are largely kept proprietary but rely on artificial intelligence (AI). Using predictive analytics, these apps can “rank” the users that each person sees. Utilizing contextual scoring, the goal is for users to be attracted to people they see relatively soon after installing the app and continue to use it.
These apps have also gone through a major messaging overhaul. Many were originally text only but then added the ability to share images. In recent years, they’ve allowed users to share videos, GIFs and voice messages, as the cost of computer storage has plummeted. Synchronous video chat is also a recent feature for many apps.
The issue of “how far away is too far away?” has been solved by allowing users to leverage geofencing. Dating apps nearly universally require users to enable location services and only show relevant results. However, this was initially an issue for those in rural areas since these apps were built and tested in cities. Now, most allow users to define a custom search radius for potential partners.
Each app used to function as its own discrete entity. However, as the number of social services has increased, dating apps have partnered with other services to integrate them. This allows users to take advantage of single sign-on (SSO) to make logging into multiple services easier. They may also take advantage of multifactor authentication via another app, improving security management.
As a benefit of these partnerships, the AI can use data shared by apps integrated with dating apps to paint a full portrait of users. For example, Tinder uses Spotify “anthems” to match users with similar tastes in music, while Bumble’s integration with Instagram lets users share more photos, removing any cap on uploaded images.
Monetization of these apps is tricky but possible. Most operate on a “freemium” model so users can use the service for free with the ability to purchase premium services that offer them instant access to more features and data about potential partners. This, of course, requires the use of payment gateway technology that brings a sense of e-commerce to the dating scene.
The Future Of Dating Apps
There’s already ample science put into these apps. However, in a competitive climate, each company will need to continue to evolve to stay in business, and there are several problems in the online dating world that need to be addressed.
Users posing as someone else (aka “catfishing”) is a common occurrence in online dating. Companies are scrambling to create a solution that utilizes facial mapping for users to prove their identities. However, there’s a fine line between reasonable verification requirements and intrusive measures that dissuade users.
Dating apps like Tinder are now rolling out concierge services to help craft the perfect profile. For a fee, Tinder will assign you a “concierge” who will perfect your profile to increase matches. This service will more than likely be a mixture of human, AI and machine learning working in together to make your profile more appealing to potential matches.
Speaking of AI, there’s no doubt that the AI each app uses will also be tweaked and become more advanced. As more integrations and partnerships occur and systems get even smarter, matches will become more accurate. It will likely be used to determine both the physical and psychological characteristics of people that attract each user and show the user more people who match those, as well.
Interestingly, it is believed that DNA will play a role in these apps in the future. Most likely as an app integration, popular ancestry tracking services’ APIs will be tapped. Users with compatible DNA would be able to match and would be a huge leap forward for the dating app industry.
Despite companies’ best efforts to provide personalized experiences, many users still find dating apps too impersonal. While AI cannot mimic empathy, it can only improve in its ability to detect key patterns to form matches that let people have true, meaningful connections. There is no doubt that as these innovations and the solutions behind them continue to advance, so too will the experience of online dating and the utility of technology in modern dating and love.