The Future of Dating Apps

In this blog, we're 'hooking you up' with all the best insights on the future of the dating app landscape.

Published by Hamish Kerry

Since the early 2010’s dating apps have seen a meteoric rise in popularity, far outstripping user levels on equivalent web services, becoming ever more specific and specialised each year. From generalist dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Grindr, to more specialist offerings such as those seen on Thursday, Dil Mil and Muzz, dating apps have become the go to seek out companionship of all kinds. 

With their proliferation has come a more open view from society towards the validity of technology’s role in helping people find love. No longer subject to exist on the back pages of user’s app screens, dating apps have truly cemented their place in the palms of singletons (and sometimes not so singletons as we’ll see later on), as a right of passage on the quest for love. 

As a well matured category with a myriad of flavours, it begs the question; what does the future of dating apps look like? Where are the market gaps? And what can users expect from their go to matchmaking services in 2023? 

Let’s take a look shall we?

The current landscape of dating app users

For this section, we’ll take a look at Bumble’s recently released report, with data sourced from some 10,000 of their platform users.​​

Image Credits: Bumble

Types are out, open casting is in.

52% of daters in the UK are taking a step back from having a “type”, casting their love seeking nets further afield from their previously tight list of “must haves”. Boundaries continue to be broken down on all sides of the dating spectrum with some 28% of daters placing a reduced emphasis on dating within their ‘expected’ type. As diversification continues on the upward, dating app users are standing up to societal pressures on constructs of regularity.

It’s all about boundaries. 

It seems natural that many of us are currently feeling overwhelmed given the resumption of the workplace culture and our hectic social schedules. More than half (52%) of people say they have added more limits in the past year, which leads specialists to believe that people's altered perspectives have caused us to prioritise our boundaries. This includes being more explicit about our emotional needs and boundaries (63%), being more deliberate and attentive about how we present ourselves (59%), and avoiding taking on too much social commitment (53%).

In addition to this, it’s become increasingly popular for daters to match based on work life balance, 49% of users prioritised this as a core factor of considering interacting with a profile. Fancy job titles are out, and appreciation for compatibility in workloads is in.

Toxic masculinity, could we be nearing the end? 

It would seem from Bumble’s research that toxic masculinity is too on its way out, at least with users of the female-first dating platform. 52% of users were actively challenging stereotypes of men needing to hide their emotions at the risk of appearing weak. With 38% of men reporting an increase in speaking about their emotions with other male identifying friends, a positive sign of the times. 

Nothing is off the table.

The taboos that once kept sexual exploration at bay are increasingly being removed by users of dating platforms, with 42% of reporting that the use of the apps were encouraging them to be more sex positive. 1 in 5 users in 2022 got in touch with the nuances of their sexuality, with binary constructs of ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ giving way to a more flexible outlook on a spectrum of possible relationship types. 

On the topic of relationship types, Bumble reported a rise in the number of non-monogamous users on the platform, with 14% of users considering being in more than just a couple. 

To summarise.

Dating platforms continue to be a place of “challenging the status quo”. Men are focusing more on getting in touch with their emotions, and the value that brings to a healthy relationship. While users of all gender identifications begin to explore their boundaries, be those geographic, emotionally or physically, the modern user of dating apps is more diverse and nuanced than ever. 

Where do we go from here? 

With Bumble’s research in mind, let’s take a closer look at what the future holds for dating apps, and how startups and established brands can leverage these insights to provide better services for their users.

Generalisation when needed, specificities where appropriate

With an increased user pool looking for love in a wider catchment area, across an increasingly diverse set of characteristics, it will be key for providers to focus on facilitating easier interregional searches. While many currently address this from behind a paywall, there are a few success stories that can be explored. 

In 2018 leading GBTQ dating app, Grindr launched its explore feature which allows users to search for profiles anywhere in the world with an intuitive map feature. Users simply drop a pin at the desired location to bring up the profiles of users closest to the chosen location. Users can see pictures associated with the profiles in the same way as those on their doorstep, however messaging is kept behind a paywall as a premium service. The result has multiple benefits for users, with some using the service as an indicator of safety within a region which they may be considering travelling to, the more profiles with fully completed details, the safer the city or region is to travel within. 

Image credits: Grindr

Additionally, a multitude of dating platforms including Tinder and Hinge allow users to increase the distances of their catchment areas, point of improvement on their services in 2023 may be the ability to set minimum catchment distances from current location, allowing, for example, users to see profiles between 20 - 100 miles from their current location.

Gen Z, living life on their own time

Renate Nyborg, the CEO of Tinder, claims that Gen Z makes up more than half of Tinder's user base and that they have a preferred way to date, one that’s low and slow.

They have a different view of the perfect dating setting than millennials do since they prefer to learn more about possible partners before becoming emotionally involved with them or meeting them. For its users, Tinder has introduced a variety of swipe functions based on intent. By including "Passions, Prompts, and Vibes" to their individual profiles, they can now match without exploring romantic expectations. It’s all about enabling couples to get to know one another better without having romantic expectations; additional interaction is only possible if "vibes match." 

Image credits: Tinder

This is a great example of how Tinder differentiates itself from other dating apps, with a focus on a youthful approach, with an optional focus for users on becoming friends before they make the next step. A kind of digital reintroduction of traditional courting. 

Rules of engagement

Once users have matched, tapped, liked or any other kind of first engagement function you can think of, comes the important step of taking the conversation offline, and meeting in person (although that too looks drastically different from the dates of yesteryear). 

Video dating has become increasingly popular since the COVID-19 pandemic, with many users continuing to use a Facetime, Zoom or Skype call as a kind of ‘first base’ date. We would have included MSTeams in that list, however we’re not quite sure anyone is brave enough to sign into a video date with their work email as their username. Nevertheless, video dates have continued to become a key part of the modern courting process, particularly with those partaking in open casting.  Those seriously looking to provide a holistic take on the modern dating game should look to include this as a feature. 

Leaving the online world behind, users are increasingly partaking in dates with caveats. Niche or hobby dating has become popular, with services set up to funnel users towards activities in person based on the shared interests on their online profiles. In addition to activity specific dating, dry dating has become all the rage in the last year, with 62% of respondents to a 2022 survey conducted by the BBC believing they would be able to form a more genuine connection with a date if it was conducted sans booze. 

Since the pandemic, a return to traditional dating settings has also been on the rise, with a significant number of respondents more inclined to participate in walks, or daytime trips out with their dates over restaurant or bar settings. Spurred on by the increasing cost of living, these ‘budget’ dates have become a common occurrence for those looking for ‘the one’. 

Dating apps can take advantage of these changes to the first date scene by increasing their connection to local activities, creating profile preferences that encourage users to identify their ideal first date, and by encouraging users to outline their considerations on a date within messages.

In short

The world of dating apps has evolved over the last decade, providing users with a more diverse and nuanced experience, as well as facilitating societal change. Dating apps have broken down barriers and norms, providing users with increased flexibility and room to explore various types of relationships. The future of dating apps will likely focus on facilitating interregional searches, offering more specific search parameters and reducing paywalls to access messaging features. New features should be added to the mix, including enhanced safety features and virtual dating options. The future will undoubtedly see continued changes in the dating landscape, as society evolves and becomes more accepting of alternative lifestyles and relationships.


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