Gen Z make up more than half of Tinder’s users—and they’re using the app way differently than millennials do
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Tinder, originator of the “swipe,” is not just the biggest app in the Match Group family,¹ but the largest dating app in the world. In September of last year, Renate Nyborg—a self-described “techno-optimist” with a background in philosophy—took over as CEO with a daunting to-do list: make Tinder a more inclusive place, upgrade user safety, grow globally, and, of course, keep the 10-year-old app No. 1.
This edited Q&A has been condensed for space and clarity.
Date with destiny
Tinder is still the dominant dating app, but it’s now been around for a decade.² That’s a long time in tech years! What’s your plan to stay ahead of the pack?
Nyborg: I jokingly refer to our 100-year vision. But given that we make such a big impact on relationships and on society—fundamentally human themes, not just technology themes—I don’t think it’s completely crazy to think about that. We’re addressing the role we play for the next generation, the experience for women and people of color, and building experiences that matter for local audiences.
Tinder and “swipe right” revolutionized online dating—some would say for the better, but others might disagree.³ How do you think Tinder has impacted the world?
I’m a very happy customer. I met my husband on Tinder six years ago. There are many studies suggesting that relationships that start online do often result in happier and longer-lasting marriages—you have to not assume anything about the person you’re meeting and be upfront about what you’re looking for. Other studies suggest that dating apps, in particular Tinder, have contributed to more interracial marriages and more diverse couple matches.
You led the company’s EMEA business before becoming CEO. What are your international priorities?
We see tremendous potential in Asia-Pacific. A lot of the new features we’re developing are specifically designed for the region, like Tinder Coins, a way to pay for premium experiences that’s more typical in the Asian region. Europe has a longer history of people meeting online, whereas in Asia, this is still a newer thing.
Tinder has faced some criticism for sexual assaults and other crimes that happened after people connected on the app. What is the company doing to improve safety?
We recently launched a new reporting flow with [anti–sexual violence organization] RAINN to report harassment, sexual violence, and abuse in the real world in a trauma-informed way. We also debuted a partnership with Garbo, building a platform that makes background checks available at an affordable price to anyone. Our goal is to put decision-making with the right information in the hands of all of our members.
You launched and ran a cross-functional team dedicated to understanding women’s experiences on Tinder. What did you learn?
Women look to replicate more of the experiences that they have in the real world on Tinder. That led us to create Swipe Party, where you’ll be able to swipe with your friends when you’re looking at profiles—and your friends don’t have to be on Tinder to participate. It also led us to create Block List, which allows you to block any contacts that are on your phone from seeing you. It’s another way to give you more control over your experience.
An app for all
One of your priorities is reshaping Tinder to create an experience more inclusive of different gender identities and sexualities. How are you doing that?
Most dating apps today are quite prescriptive precisely in terms of what they allow you to search for: man searching for a woman, woman searching for a man. When we speak to Gen Z, one of the things that inspires us the most is the fact that they feel like they have different identities. Young people having five Twitter accounts, or several Instagram profiles, it simply means that they want to be able to express themselves in different ways at different times. We’re aiming to solve the challenge: When I come to Tinder, I want to be able to express myself exactly how I am. I don’t just want to choose from being male or female. We already introduced nine different gender identities, but we know that we can do a lot more.
So, what about Gen Z—are they on Tinder?
More than 50% of our member base is between 18 and 25. We’ve heard from plenty of people about the “millennial journey”—you match with someone, chat to them, and then go on a date within a week or two—being replaced by “slow dating” that’s much more intentional. You match with someone, you chat, you go on an Animal Crossing date, you chat some more, you exchange Spotify playlists, and then two months later, you might go on a date. Allowing for more time to see if you have a true connection with someone is probably a good thing—and something that other generations can learn from too.
I swipe, therefore I am
Your career has been in tech, but you majored in philosophy.⁴ What kind of foundation did that provide?
I truly think that philosophy is one of the best foundations that you can have in tech today. Technology, at the end of the day, is solving problems, at scale and for society. What philosophy gives you is grounding and a rigorous process for answering questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer. I sometimes think that every company should have a chief philosopher. Given the role that Tinder and dating apps play in society, the importance of considering the impact of even the smallest change in a button—it’s one of the most important muscles you can have working in tech.
Between the lines
(1) 56%: Share of Match Group revenue generated by Tinder. Match reported annual revenue of nearly $3 billion in 2021.
(2) Not a perfect match: Tinder was founded in 2012 through an incubator run by former Match parent IAC. Three cofounders, Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, and Jonathan Badeen, went on to sue Match in 2018, alleging that IAC lowballed Tinder’s valuation. Match announced its intention to settle in 2021.
(3) Swipe skeptics: Early criticism of Tinder focused on its status as a “hookup” app—as well as the startup’s culture at the time. Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, a Tinder cofounder, left after alleging sexual harassment.
(4) Speaking her language: The half-Dutch, half-Norwegian CEO, who’s fluent in five languages, moved to London in her teens before attending the University of Cambridge. She now lives in Switzerland.
A version of this article appears in the April/May 2022 issue of Fortune with the headline, “The Conversation: Renate Nyborg.”