Hinge was for the swipe before it was against it.
The dating app is releasing a new version today, which is being marketed as a relationship app rather than a swipe app. Hinge was a swipe app — one of the original swipe apps, in fact. Hinge launched in February 2013 in Washington, D.C., not long after Tinder’s 2012 debut.
After three years, the app concedes that it’s not you, dear single swiper, it’s them. “Our users were swiping a lot — but only 15% of matches were turning into actual conversations,” Hinge reports.
Justin McLeod, Hinge’s chief executive, says the app has always had more of a “relationship vibe” than Tinder. But over time, “we realized that our app and other apps … all started to blend together,” he said in an interview. “What we found was a declining satisfaction with Hinge and all apps. We weren’t serving needs of people looking for relationships.” Over 80 percent of users hadn’t found a relationship on any type of swipe app, according to a recent Hinge study.
So McLeod went back to the drawing board and came up with what he hopes will be something between the free swipe apps such as Tinder and Bumble (where the bar to entry is very low) and the paid dating sites such as eHarmony and Match.com that can cost $20 or more a month. Current members will have access to the new Hinge free for three months; after that, membership will cost $7 a month.
Could the new Hinge be the Goldilocks app for millennials looking for something more serious than a hookup but not so serious as to brand them as desperate? McLeod hopes that that small membership fee — plus some design changes — will do the trick.
“I think people are so used to liking on Instagram and Facebook,” McLeod says, that the app’s prompts will feel like a natural extension of social media. And the ability to “like” someone anonymously before you know if the feeling is mutual? “It wasn’t important to users anymore,” McLeod says. “People are not embarrassed about being exposed about liking someone.”
Instead of swiping through profiles, the new Hinge will resemble a cross between Instagram and Facebook. For example, two users can interact simply by commenting on each others’ profile photos or responding to their “story cards,” where they can share information about themselves, such as how their parents met; where their next vacation will be; life goals and their favorite bar. Unlike the swipe apps, two users won’t have to both signal mutual interest in order to communicate. Rather than “matches” popping up, users will get notifications that someone has liked their photo or commented on their story card.
McLeod says his target audience is singles ages 25 to 35 who are tired of Tinder and aren’t comfortable on an older site like Match or eHarmony. “They’re just not popular brands,” McLeod said, describing the Match or eHarmony user experience as “clunky.” He added: “We want to create that same dynamic,” meaning people who are looking for a serious relationship, “but not at a price that signals you’re desperate.”
McLeod thinks that the Netflix-level price will signal that users “care enough” that they’re going to be responsive on the app — and that they actually want to go out on dates, not just swipe or message without meeting up in person. “For people who are happy with the Tinders and the Bumbles of the world, I don’t think they’ll pay for it,” McLeod said.
Hinge isn’t the only dating site looking to revamp its image and become more relevant to millennial daters with Tinder fatigue. In a phone interview last month, eHarmony’s new chief executive, Grant Langston, said of Tinder: “It doesn’t give them a lot of dates. After some weeks and months of doing that, they’re into the world of online dating but they’re not much getting much out of it. They’ve sort of ‘graduated’ to us.”