Would you pay to find love via a mobile phone app?

Tinder claims it makes 15m matches a day and it is about to launch a new, premium service, but while romance can flourish online, Tinder and Plenty of Fish, and other such services, are just as likely to be used for casual-sex hook-ups.

TWO years after the birth of online dating app, Tinder, Cupid now strikes a staggering 15m times a day in cyberspace. Six per cent of Irish people are now ‘swiping right’ to romance on Tinder.

But would you be willing to pay for the pleasure?

The free mobile dating app is set to launch its new, premium service from tomorrow. In addition to making 15m matches every day, it might now make millions of dollars, too.

“Revenue has always been on the road map,” Tinder CEO, Sean Rad (27), said at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia last week. “We had to get our product and growth right first... We are adding features that users have been begging us for. They will offer so much value, we think users are willing to pay for them.”

Though Rad is reluctant to spoil the surprise, he says the new service lets users move beyond current location limits and expand their Tinder circle.

Founded by Rad and fellow 27-year-old Californian, Justin Mateen, in 2012, Tinder uses Facebook photos and information to match you with someone in your area.

After looking at six photos, users must choose whether to swipe right, for ‘yes’, and strike up a conversation, or swipe left, for ‘no’, and keep looking for love.

With hot new hook-up apps, Mixxxr and Happn, on the way here, though, will Irish singletons stay loyal to Tinder?

Dublin social media consultant, Damien Mulley, says: “I think Irish people will be willing to pay for the premium service, if it offers something extra. With any other app, like movies or music, people will always try to find a way to get it for free.

“When it comes to searching for the ideal man or woman, however, I think they see it as an investment in their happiness.”

Although the company refuses to reveal the number of accounts worldwide, it says in the Netherlands 10% of the population is using Tinder.

“I would think it’s much higher,” says Mulley, who runs Mulley Communications. “The number of people who admit using Tinder is probably lower than the actual usage.

“Tinder is very fashionable, at the moment, and I think it’s an app that will be around for a good while,” he says.

“There are definitely advantages to dating apps, especially for shy people.

“In the same way that some people sit in front of their computers and turn into abusive trolls, it can also help others become charming and witty.”

Whether shy or the opposite, fans of the app log on about 11 times a day for an average of seven minutes, makers say, and collectively view an astonishing 1.2bn profiles per day.

Half of users are aged 18 to 24, 32% areaged 25 to 34, and 8% are aged 35 to 44. Even teenagers are getting in on the act: 7% of users are aged 13 to 17.

Despite Tinder fast gaining a reputation as a ‘hook-up app’, co-founder Mateen says it was designed to help singletons overcome the “physical and emotional barriers” of meeting new people.

“When you walk into a coffee shop or party, the first thing you notice about someone is their physical appearance,” he says.

“You’re either drawn to them or not. That’s how we present the profile. It’s the same experience, but on steroids.”

Tinder’s tagline puts it even more succinctly, promising: “It’s like real life, but better”.

So does it deliver?

Office worker, Paula (29), from Dublin, doesn’t think so.

“I used Tinder for a few weeks, but didn’t get on very well,” she says.

“Of all the matches I made, only one guy messaged me, and, in the end, it didn’t go anywhere.

“I think guys just hedge their bets by swiping right on every profile, and then wait to see what comes back.”

Fuelling the assumption that you’re more likely to find ‘Mr All Night’ than ‘Mr Right’ on Tinder, men seem slightly keener on the app, with guys outnumbering girls 55:45.

“We need to try and break the link between online dating and sex,” says matchmaker, Avril Mulcahy.

“So many people think that apps like Tinder and PlentyOfFish [POF] are all about hooking up.

“As far as I’m concerned, online dating is just another way to create opportunities to meet someone special.

“The problem is that a lot of guys are expecting to have sex on the first date, whereas a lot of girls are looking for a relationship.

“You have to watch for red flags,” she says. “I see guys on Tinder saying straight-out: ‘I’m married and looking for a casual fling’.

“If you don’t want that, then you have to stop going on these dates and putting out, because you’re only building up the hook-up culture for everyone else.”

“By all means, get out there and meet as many guys as possible,” says Avril (avrilmulcahy.com). “Just be clear on what you want. If you’re having hook-up, after hook-up, after hook-up, and suddenly want a relationship, it’s not going to happen.”

Secondary school-teacher, Siobhán (31), from Cavan, was pleasantly surprised to find there weren’t too many “weirdos” on PlentyOfFish, which launched as an app in 2010, and boasts 90m members worldwide.

But she hasn’t reeled in ‘the One’ yet, either: “Two of my friends met their boyfriends on PlentyOfFish, so, earlier this year, I decided to download the app to my iPhone, as well.

“I’ve been on a few dates so far, and don’t have any major horror stories. You can generally tell by a guy’s messages if he’s a weirdo.”

The Canadian company last year stamped out sleazy behaviour on the site, including the removal of an ‘Intimate Encounters’ option and the deletion of members who sent sexual first messages.

Explaining the decision, founder Markus Frind said: “When I created POF, I wanted it to be all about finding relationships with the right person.

“I got the site to 10m users without any employees, and POF was generating a ton of relationships. But around three years ago, everyone started using the website via mobile phones.

“Unfortunately, about 2% of men have started to use POF as more of a hook-up site, mostly due the casual nature of mobile-phone use.”

Over on Grindr, a five-year-old geo-social networking app for gay, bi-sexual and bi-curious guys, it’s a different kettle of fish, says David, a 30-year-old blogger from Kildare: “Grindr is definitely a hook-up app, even though they insist on calling themselves a dating app.

“Even using it down the country, you’d be amazed at how many profiles turn up. Recently, I switched it on in Dublin, and the nearest match was only 60 metres away.”

Straight or gay, there’s no guarantee of an ‘app-ily’ ever after, says relationship counsellor, Tony Moore. “People who use Tinder and PlentyOfFish tend to be younger than those who use more traditional matchmaking services,” he says.

“Unfortunately, not everybody’s singing off the same hymn sheet.

“People go from one to another, pick up — dump, pick up — dump, pick up — dump. Even if they meet someone, often they keep the app on their phone.

“I have male and female clients who found the app on their partner’s phone, and it really is quite destructive.”

“Some people become obsessed with the number of views they get,” says Mulley.

“Swiping left or right almost becomes like a game. People forget that the objective of these apps is to meet somebody, and get off the bloody phone.”

Nonetheless, as it starts capitalising on Cupid’s arrow in the coming weeks, Tinder boss, Rad, assured users there would be no changes to the current, free app — meaning users here can continue to swipe left or right, footloose and fancy-free (and cost-free).

Following the arrest of a man in his mid-30s for the alleged rape of a woman he met on Tinder, in Dublin, last month, however, the experts urged caution.

“Your safety is first,” says Mulcahy.

“If you don’t have the money to use a traditional matchmaking service, you need to become your own matchmaker, and watch for all the things that I would be watching for, such as a fake profile picture.

“If he’s sounding a little bit dodgy, don’t meet up with him — there’s always another guy out there.”

“Always be cautious,” says Moore.

“Just because somebody looks great and has a great job, doesn’t mean that something nasty isn’t lurking beneath the surface.”

Tinder: What’s the alternative?

PlentyOfFish

With an estimated 90m members, there are certainly plenty more fish in the sea as far as this 11-year-old Canadian dating website-turned-app is concerned. Although free to use, for a monthly fee members can find out if their messages have been read or deleted.

DOWN

This free Facebook app is best described as Tinder for buddies. Reportedly attracting 20,000 users within just four days of relaunching last year, it lets users select Facebook friends they’d like to bed, and find out if the feeling is mutual.

Zoosk

Since launching Stateside four years ago, Zoosk has attracted around 27m members in more than 80 countries . Known as ‘Zooskers’, users — 70% of whom are under 35 – can browse and instant message for free, but have to pay to send and receive private messages.

Badoo

Founded in the UK in 2007, over 225m are signed up to this dating-focused social networking service. Like Tinder and POF, it operates a freemium model, meaning the basic service including chat is free, while premium features such as heightened profile visibility cost.

Muddy Matches

If the farmer wants a wife then you’re likely to find him on this popular dating site for welly-wearers in Ireland and Britain, which launched a new iOS and Android app last month. Signing up and browsing its 100,000 profiles is free, but sending and receiving messages isn’t.


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