Tinder should expand beyond dating, but not with ephemeral photos

Moderated by:
Katie Fehrenbacher — Senior Writer, Gigaom
Sean Rad — CEO, Tinder

When you’ve made it big with a specific niche group of users, how do you break into the mainstream? It’s a problem every social media company has had to tackle at some point, and it can be a huge make-or-break moment.

It’s clear that the co-founders of Tinder, a mobile app known primarily for romantically connecting nearby singles, are itching to get away from that “dating app” reputation and open up to a wider audience. But the new feature incorporated in the app’s latest update, “Moments,” (as reported by TechCrunch) shoehorns the ephemeral photo trend into the app under the guise of helping its users get to know each other. This somehow totally misses the point.

Moments, which will be released Thursday, allow users to snap a photo, edit it, and send it to all their “matches” — people they have already indicated interest in by swiping right on that person’s profile. When a photo is taken, it’s available for just 24 hours (evoking the ephemerality trend seen most clearly in hot messaging app SnapChat), and matches can then swipe left to indicate “no” or swipe right to indicate “yes,” once again opening the door for conversation.

While Moments on its own is not an entirely useless feature, it’s an example of putting the cart before the horse. As someone who has used Tinder before, simply matching with someone doesn’t indicate that anything positive or worthwhile will result. In fact, Tinder doesn’t even allow for users to simply delete matches that have fizzled out or never started at all — only to make lists upon lists of potential matches based on category. And, if Moments does send photos to all matches, as TechCrunch reported, it’s likely to lead to white noise and unwanted pestering from matches who are not interesting enough to engage with but not harmful enough to warrant an outright block.

But the most damaging aspect of Moments is that by incorporating its signature swiping functionality, it opens users up to a whole new layer of judgement. In the world of online dating, where Tinder is still firmly rooted, judgement and rejection are still serious issues for users. While Moments only shows users which matches deliberately liked a photo, it still puts users in a vulnerable spot.

In this way, Moments caters to the kind of users Tinder wants to have, but not necessarily the users that gave it momentum. While it’s clear the company will try to  make a high-energy pivot to that “meeting” app it wants to become, it risks alienating those who already use the app daily.

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