Hate It Or Love It, Tinder’s Right Swipe Limit Is Working

Tinder has been making waves the past month with the introduction of Tinder Plus, a premium tier of the service that adds extra features like the ability to rewind a left swipe or search for potential matches in a different city. However, Tinder Plus also brings a new “right swipe limiter” into the mix, as users who swipe right too much or too often in a 12 hour period will run out of likes unless they upgrade to Tinder Plus (which is between $9.99 and $19.99/month, depending on age).

As you might expect, some users who are running into the right swipe limiter (internally called Bouncer) are outraged by the change. Some people have grown accustomed to using Tinder in a specific way.

According to a blog post from Tinder, the company has seen “a small number of users who only swipe right just to see who likes them back.” They won’t say what percentage of users have displayed this behavior, or how that percentage has decreased or increased over time. But the company indicates that the right swipe limiter is working.

“When you get as big as Tinder, with as many different types of users, we’re bound to make decisions that will disappoint a certain amount of edge-case users,” said Tinder CEO Sean Rad in an interview with TechCrunch. “But we make them for the greater good of the community as a whole.”

All Right Everything

You know this person. The one who swipes right on everybody just to examine people who liked them and then unmatch the ones they’re not interested in. In fact, a Glossary of Tinder terms in The Awl gave this user a name back in 2013: The Indiscriminate Narcissist.

This is the behavior that Tinder would like to ‘correct’.

But this behavior is bigger than Tinder. Though the dating app lists under the Lifestyle section instead of the Social section of the App Store, I think the generation of users that are active on Tinder see it as yet another social network built for dating, like Twitter is with public sharing or Facebook is with keeping track of friends or Instagram is for sharing photos. The list goes on and on, and in each case down the list, the user expects more.

We want more followers, friends, likes, snaps, taps, and everything in between. More.

The Bad News

“Just like Dunbar’s Rule, there is a Tinder rule,” said Rad. “You can only maintain so many relationships at any given time, and that holds true on Tinder in its own way. If you go past a certain point with the amount of people you swipe right on, there is a diminishing return on every match.”

Tinder, then, is faced with the challenge of maintaining the value of a match while offering a product that inherently begs the user to do more.

After all, isn’t Tinder a game as much as it is a messenger or a platform to meet new people? I’ve heard of impromptu Tinder parties, where a group of friends gather around a screen and vote collectively on swiping left or right. I, myself, have had people hand over their phone — “swipe for me for a while,” they say — as though the act of judging other humans, with another human, is a cherished pasttime.

And if we put anecdotal behavior stuff aside, we can point to the obvious truth: The actual design of Tinder is based around a deck of cards. Can’t get much more gamified than that.

Users want to swipe more because that is the game of Tinder, but the match is the equivalent of a turbo-charged Like on another social network. It’s not just a friend giving you a hat-tip on your photo or some random follower favoriting your tweet.

It’s someone who might actually like you. Someone who may potentially want to have sex with you. The stakes are raised, and so is the reward.

Sure, it saves time to swipe right on everyone, narrow down your choices to people who have already stated their intentions by swiping right on you, and clear out the rest. It’s a lower stakes game. You know everyone who is interested in you, and the ball is entirely in your court. But when you know you’ll get rid of 90 percent of your matches after doing this, the match itself ceases to matter all that much.

What’s worse, the Indiscriminate Narcissist is not only bringing down the value of a match for themselves, but they are bringing down the value of a match for every person they get paired with.

The Good News

People are going to be upset when they hit their like limit, that’s a given. But Tinder says it’s seeing positive results thus far. Ten days into launch, Tinder is seeing a 25 percent increase in the number of matches per right swipe, and a 25 percent increase in the number of messages per match. Plus, spam bots, Bouncer’s primary target, have decreased more than 50 percent since launch.

“We made unlimited likes a paid feature because it would be a big enough barrier to entry for spam bots to cut out that usage, but we still want our users to have the freedom to use Tinder in whatever way they want,” said Rad. “It’s a platform at the end of the day.”

Plus, the app just introduced new reporting features that give users more control over the process of giving feedback. For example, users can report bad offline behavior after meeting up with someone (who might have been a jerk). The reporting process lets user report the reason each time they unmatch or report another user, which Tinder then uses to notify the offending party, giving people the chance to correct their behavior before getting booted from the app entirely.

Tinder has created an ecosystem that is nearly ubiquitous. There are more dating apps out there than I can count (I’ve covered lots of them) and none have the same reach and engagement as Tinder. And that’s where it’s success comes from.

“What makes us different is not a set of features,” said Rad of competition. “We have a community. There are a bunch of awesome bars and restaurants in Los Angeles, but each night there are only one or two hotspots. And that’s determined by the crowd of people there. The community. What we’re doing is trying to protect the integrity of our community.”

But balancing growth, not only in users but in user engagement, with maintaining a certain level of quality for every match, message, etc. is a difficult line to walk. At some point, Facebook stopped being the place where the cool college kids hung out and it started being the place where your aunt posts pictures of her barbecue (plus advertisements).

Burning Ahead

Tinder has yet to actually introduce advertisements, though sources say it will arrive within the next six weeks. Just as people overreacted to the launch of Tinder Plus (and Facebook ads, and Twitter ads, and Instagram ads), they will hoot and holler about Tinder advertisements. But if the service remains effective, people will get over that.

The greater problem is growth. Moreso than a flexible income, Tinder jacks up the price of 30 or older users because the success of many social networks is dependent not necessarily on the size of the crowd, but the density at which a certain demographic engages with the service.

Rad calls it “protecting the integrity of the community,” but we can be more blunt about it than he can. Tinder is more successful when it is filled with attractive single people, and generally speaking, the younger you are the more likely you are to be a potential Tinder user.

There is an undercurrent of exclusion there that may make some people uncomfortable, but it’s par for the course in many dating apps. The League, for instance, proudly advertises that it’s just for the ‘rich, pretty people’. Tinder doesn’t exclude those in their dotage, but it does charge them more, creating an artificial limit on people outside of their most desired demo.

So yes, hitting a paywall after furiously swiping right all evening kind of sucks. And yes, advertisements on Tinder will invariably suck. But that will fade with a nearly endless, free stream of attractive people just a few swipes away. When the “It’s A Match” notification gives you that extra hit of dopamine.

And all the while, Tinder is not only growing its future advertising revenue with its massive userbase, but it is simultaneously limiting that growth with a premium tier.

Rad said that keeping that balance is something that has taken a lot of time, a lot of data, and a clear sense of what Tinder wants to be in the future.

“You have to build for the future, and when we think about what we want to be, it’s bigger than the Tinder you see today,” said Rad. “What Google did for search, we want to do for meeting new people. Everywhere.”