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  • Robert Farago

Hinge CEO: Our App Sucks

AI is the answer! Or not

Just before Christmas, Justin McLeod (above right) had a chinwag with The Financial Times. The Hinge CEO confirmed what the Internet gurus and this Substack have been saying: dating apps are in big trouble.

A Bit of Background…

Back in November, an Axios survey found 79 percent of college students and graduates didn't use any dating apps.

Contrast that with a 2019 Pew Research survey, where around half of 18- to 29-year-olds reported they were using a dating app.

Not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, and Hinge’s balance sheet looks healthy enough.

Even so, Justin McLeod’s charm offensive indicates that the dating app industry has already had its come-to-Jesus moment. And here’s his take…

A Tale of Two Users

On one hand, Hinge jefe McLeod says his dating app is a victim of its own success…

are overwhelmed: there’s so much activity, and so many people, and everyone starts to look the same, and conversations are dying.

Ahem. The Hinge users “suffering” from O.D. are the popular users. Young, beautiful, handsome, charismatic, tall, rich, perfectly posed, that sort of thing.

On the other hand, the not so shiny happy people. They face an entirely different dilemma. Crickets chirping. Tumbleweeds rolling. The sound of one hand…

Surprisingly, McLeod acknowledges those at the wrong end of the dating app bifurcation.

At the other end of the spectrum, a lot of users get very, very little activity. They burn out because they’re trying to get that match, and they send a lot of likes, but then they’re not even getting enough activity to go on one date.

Hinge’s main man ain’t just whistling Dixie (never mind Going to the Chapel).

The unearthed the numbers on the app’s winners and losers.

In a 2017 report from Hinge… the top 1% of men receive more than 16% of all likes on the app, while the top 1% of women get just over 11% of all likes. The bottom 50% of men got just 4.3% of all likes and the bottom 50% of women got 7.9% of all likes.

Focusing on the top one percent is frightening – but not as scary as widening the demographic profile a bit further.

It’s safe to say that the top 10 percent of men and women on Hinge receive pretty much all the likes and, thus, dates.

Now what?

McLeod’s answer: artificial intelligence.

The opportunity of AI is that it allows us to function more and more like a matchmaker that’s making really, really targeted introductions, and helping people put their best foot forward. Then it can really become, over time, about more and more quality, and less and less quantity — less and less people you have to go through in order to find the right one.

While McLeod wants you to believe AI-enhanced Hinge is about finding suitable candidates, for the top tier, it’s all about excluding unsuitable candidates.

Eliminating popular Hinge users’ burnout is simple enough: use AI to limit the number of profiles to avoid overchoice.

Meanwhile, how will AI Hinge get more of the dispossessed possessed (i.e., help the bottom tier get noticed)?

The key: McLeod’s pledge to “help people put their best foot forward.”

AI Uber Alles

That can only mean one thing: Hinge will set AI loose on users’ profiles. Before they go live. Both pictures and copy.

Turn undesirables into desirables! Sanctioned catfishing, if you will.

Hinge is part of the Match Group (, OKCupid, Hinge and Tinder). Tinder has already introduced AI-assisted photo selection for user profiles.

Last summer, Match said they’re rolling out the AI photo feature across all their apps. At the same time, they’re working on “larger AI projects” via their Hyperconnect acquisition.

You know where this is going. From AI photo selection, to AI photo modification, to AI profile writing, to AI chat. Yup, an AI chatbot will text a potential date for the user. Who may well use AI to respond.

Why don’t the algorithms just hook-up with each other?

Seriously though, I reckon this AI-based strategy represents dating apps’ final slouch towards Bethlehem.


Dating apps depend on integrity. Sure, the posted profiles are a far cry from WYSIWYG. But letting AI take over profile creation obliterates any pretense of product integrity (for lack of a better term).

AI-enhanced profiles undermine the free market principles upon which dating apps are based. They will “trick” users into liking people they wouldn’t normally like.

The apps will pay the price. As will the users.

It’ll only take a couple of “What the hell?” dates before users get it: this is not my beautiful wife! They’ll conclude – rightly – that the app’s in-house AI’s scamming them (as opposed to Chinese hackers).

And Now for Something Completely Familiar

If we get to the point where the romantically-inclined can’t trust dating apps’ online pictures, profiles or texts, where they don’t use them anymore, there’s only way to “properly” vet a prospective mate: in person.

Could dating app de-evolution lead to the return of real world, face-to-face socializing?

There may yet be hope for dating app-averse lonely hearts, out there, somewhere. Then again, AI friends! And, eventually, AI sex robots.

One way or another, you can’t stop the semen. Er, signal.


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