Gen Z is ready to part ways with Tinder, and these new dating apps are waiting for a rebound

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Steven Coyle was on the phone looking for a date, but not on Tinder.

The 26-year-old Las Vegas girl used an app called Snack to scroll through videos of women walking down the street, showing off their outfits or lip-synching to the camera.

One caught his eye—a tall, pretty blonde filming her walking through Disney California Adventure Park to the Avengers campus, where she ordered a cocktail at a bar.

She looks funny, he thought. He pressed the heart to “like”.

Coyle had stumbled across Snack, an app that bills itself as “TikTok meets Tinder”, just days before. It’s one of the few innovative dating apps trying to grab the attention of Gen Zers, many of whom say they’re tired of the apps that have dominated the online dating scene for almost a decade – Bumble, Hinge, and most notably, Tinder, which popularized the now ubiquitous “swipe to find a match” user interface.

Looking for love with someone who shares your Myers-Briggs personality type or your love of video games? Want to see a blurry photo of your potential partner that gets sharper the longer you chat? There are plenty of options.

Straight couples in the US are now more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through any other mode of communication. 2017 interview found that 39% of such couples reported meeting their partner online, up from 22% in 2009. Pew Research Center study.

And during the pandemic, online dating reached new heights – Bumble reports a 70 percent increase in video calls and Tinder surpassed 3 billion views in a single day for the first time in March 2020.

“Dating apps give you the opportunity to meet people outside of your normal circles that you would be in on a day-to-day basis, and I think that’s really powerful — people say opposites attract,” said Snack CEO Kim Kaplan. .

Emphasizing its intention to court a new generation of dating lovers, Snack ditched the swipe gesture in favor of hitting the heart button or sending a message. When you try to swipe, you get a cheeky “swipe is old af” error message.

“Swipe is 10 years old,” said Kaplan, who was an early employee of and helped develop the dating app Plenty of Fish, which was eventually sold for $575 million.

This is not all that has been updated. Users upload TikTok-style videos instead of photos, there is no bio field, and you can even upload videos to an Instagram-style “story” that people can view after you match them.

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TikTok, where Snack is advertised, was instrumental in its creation. One day in early 2020, Kaplan was browsing the app when she came across a video in which a woman introduced herself with her name, age, and zodiac sign. Her caption included the hashtag “#single”. Kaplan realized that she had discovered the whole “wrong side” of dating that is already happening on TikTok.

It clicked: The video-based dating app was the logical next step in the evolution of dating.

She urged her Gen Z employees and investors to take their opinions and feedback into account when developing the Snack.

They told her that most people of their generation only use scrolling apps because they need to, preferring to move the conversation to a more conventional social media platform like Instagram or Snapchat as quickly as possible.

Taking a cue from the early days of Tinder, the company has focused on promoting locations on college campuses and currently has the most users in California, Texas, Florida, and New York. The application is available only to persons aged 18 to 35 years.

He also produces a dating show that airs live every week on TikTok. Although Kaplan declined to reveal the number of users, Snack, which launched in February 2021, ranked as the 10th most downloaded dating app in the US. in August.

Schmooze, another Gen Z-focused dating app, is also organized around a form of digital content that this generation has fallen in love with: memes.

Or, as CEO Vidya Madhavan put it, “Laugh to love.”

At first glance, Schmooze doesn’t look like a dating app. Instead of people’s profiles, you’re immediately greeted by a meme against a colorful cartoon background, with the ability to swipe right for “like” and left for “dislike.”

After a certain number of swipes, the app’s machine learning model attempts to evaluate what kind of humor you like and topics that interest you, such as politics, pop culture, or science. At this point, you’ll get a “#MatchRec” with someone whose humor is supposed to match yours, and you’ll have the choice of “Chat” or “Snooze.”

A few years ago, Madhavan was working in India and was thinking about going to graduate school. She wrote a cold email to a man who attended business school in the US, asking for advice. This first email led to over 150 email exchanges filled with jokes and humor and eventually marriage, as well as Madhavan’s conviction that humor is a good indicator of romantic compatibility.

“Meme-based dating is perfect for this generation,” Madhavan said. “Because memes are the way we all communicate, right? Whether it’s sharing news or sharing your feelings.”

The 27-year-old Stanford Business School graduate co-founded the company with fellow college student Abhinav Anurag and launched the app as a beta test in early April 2021. Recently, the number of its users exceeded 300,000 people, especially on the East Coast and in Los Angeles. (To scale, Tinder has about 66 million monthly users worldwide.)

Madhavan said that the dating apps currently on the market follow the same format – profile and photos.

“Are you writing a longer biography now? Do you have three clues? Does the woman go first? These are all things that change, but basically every dating app has a profile and a photo,” Madhavan said. “And that means your profile has to be so curated in order to stand out.”

By removing this burden, Schmooze is trying to turn dating into a more carefree and fun experience.

“And while you’re having fun, you’ll find a mate,” she said.

When it comes to the question of looks and personality, a dating app called Iris takes the opposite approach to Schmooze’s while also reducing the burden of self-presentation.

Going back to the basics of physical attraction, the app, launched in early 2020, asks users to train a machine learning algorithm by looking at three rounds of stock photos. It then recommends potential matches where there may be mutual attraction, either locally or across the entire database using the “Super Search” feature.

The founder, who has yet to go public, said they aimed to recreate the experience of initial attraction when meeting someone in real life, regardless of factors such as education level, hobbies, or political affiliation.

Iris also offers a free roundtrip plane ticket for all matched couples if they live too far away. All they have to do is email the company, even though no one has taken advantage of the offer yet, said business development director Daniel Mori.

Although Iris isn’t explicitly aimed at Generation Z, Mori said, the company has had successful marketing on TikTok, which was its main source of user acquisition in its first year. He has also formed a network of around 400 influencers to promote the app.

Besides who you might meet, is there a real difference in the experience of finding love on the Gen Z app?

Coyle, who has used Tinder and Bumble in the past, said that Snack’s focus on video gives “more of a sense of what they’re actually doing when they’re at a party or something, not just in a picture.”

But he struggled to find a video of himself to include on his profile and wasn’t sure how long it would last on the app.

It’s a love-hate relationship with dating apps that keeps bringing him back despite the lack of success.

“Most of the time I’m trying to find a wife,” he said.