Tinder enters the friend zone

With Tinder Social, the mobile dating app joins a growing number of platforms aimed at helping users find platonic friendships.

Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP/File
A couple poses for a photo in Salt Lake City.

In addition to romance, Tinder is now helping its 9.6 million daily active users find friends.

The immensely popular mobile dating app allows users to connect with one another by swiping right or left depending on whether someone's dating profile interests them or not. 

Tinder Social has a similar function, but it's geared toward helping friends coordinate outings. Users can invite friends via Facebook to form a group, go to an event or place (like a movie, concert, or club), and then meet up with other groups headed to the same place, if members of each group agree to a match.

Sean Rad, chief executive officer of Tinder, wants to give Tinder users’ more reasons to log on to the app. “We want to expand our membership and use case–create another way to use Tinder even if you’re in a relationship,” Mr. Rad told Forbes Wednesday.

Roughly 1 in 10 of American adults are using or have used a mobile dating app -- triple the number that had done so in 2013, according to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center. Most of that growth comes from 18-24 year olds, 1 in 5 of whom have used a mobile dating app (a 17 percent increase since 2013).

Tinder isn’t the only mobile dating app transitioning to the business of helping users find friends. In March, Bumble, a mobile dating app  that is similar to Tinder but requires women to make the first move, created Bumble BFF, allowing users to switch back and forth between finding romantic partners and same sex friends.

Bumble CEO and co-founder Whitney Wolfe says the new feature was a response to how people were using the Bumble app. Wolfe told the Washington Post in March, “We have an incredible user base, and so many of them were using this app to find friends. And they’ve been requesting a feature for — ‘Hey, I’m in a relationship, but I love Bumble. I still want to be able to use it.’”

There are some apps that specifically help make platonic connections. Olivia June Poole created Hey! VINA after she found herself using the online dating site OKCupid to find platonic female friendships. The Wiith app allows men and women to create events and then accept or reject other users who show interest in joining.

There's room for the  friend-finding app industry to grow as a younger, more tech-savvy generation ages. Already, teens use social media sites to make friends. A Pew Research Center study found that 57 percent of teens ages 13-17 have met a new friend online, usually via Facebook or Instagram. Almost 30 percent have made more than five online friends.

Tinder Social is yet another way for Tinder to expand into that growing sphere of online social interaction.

“Our vision is to power your entire social life–we want to be the app you go to when you want to meet a new person or want to meet a new group of friends,” Sean Rad, chief executive officer and co-founder of Tinder, tells Forbes.

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