Mashable’s series Algorithms explores the mysterious lines of code that increasingly control our lives — and our futures.
For years, singles have tried to game dating apps in their favor or questioned why the apps would serve up potential matches that are so not-their-type.
Dating apps are basically search tools. They use algorithms to make match recommendations using your data, which includes personal info (like location and age) as well as preferences you set and your app activity.
Some say dating apps are poor search tools precisely because of algorithms, since romantic connection is notoriously hard to predict, and that they’re “micromanaging” dating. To get better matches, the thinking goes, you need to figure out how these algorithms function. While that’s not exactly the case, we have been able to glean some helpful information by digging into the algorithms behind your matches across a few services.
So how do the most popular dating apps work? We’ve broken it down by service below.
Tinder is ubiquitous at this point, boasting 75 million monthly active users, which means it regularly has users of Reddit and the internet at large wondering why they can’t get more desirable matches. Is the algorithm “really screwed up,” as one Reddit user asked?
The Tinder algorithm used to be based on the Elo rating system, which was originally designed to rank chess players. As revealed in a 2019 blog post, Tinder’s algorithm previously utilized an “Elo score” to gauge how other profiles interacted with yours. In addition to logging your own Likes (right swipes) and Nopes (left swipes), Tinder “scored” you based on how potential matches swiped on you, as well.
Today, however, according to the Tinder blog, “Elo is old news at Tinder” and the score is no longer used. The blog post claims that the most important thing a user can do is…use the app. The more you use Tinder, the more data it has on you, which in theory should help the algorithm get to know your preferences more. The blog post further states that the more time you spend on the app, the more your profile will be seen by potential matches who are also active.
The app’s communications manager, Sophie Sieck, confirmed to Mashable that the blog post is current and that Tinder hasn’t made any algorithm changes during the global COVID-19 pandemic. She reiterated that being active on Tinder is the biggest factor in who shows up in your “stack.”
Tinder’s current system adjusts who you see every time your profile is Liked or Noped, and any changes to the order of potential matches are reflected within a day.
Bumble is similar to Tinder in that it uses a swipe model. Where it differs is that only women can message first, and matches can disappear if no one messages within 24 hours.
Bumble declined to comment about its search algorithm. There’s no blog post about it, either. When you search “algorithm” on Bumble’s site, the only post that comes up is about Private Detector, an algorithm that determines if a match sent you a nude photo.
A Bumble spokesperson told Mashable that anyone users see on the app has been active within the last 30 days — so there’s no need to worry about matching with inactive accounts.