If you’re looking to find a date, an increasingly popular alternative (especially for younger users) is the hookup app Tinder, which presents a range of other user’s profiles: Swipe right to select someone you’d like to date, or swipe to the left to move on to the next candidate. If someone whose profile you have “swiped right” also swipes right on your profile, then the system will connect both users, allowing them to communicate with one another.

While critics claim the process is shallow and primarily driven by the attractiveness of the profile photos rather than on more meaningful compatibility, the popularity of Tinder is undeniable, with the company reporting its billionth matchup a year ago — and reports of its sixth billionth matchup this month — while the firm’s valuation is estimated by Forbes to be around $1.5 billion dollars.

Although the platform is most notably associated with users in their twenties, there are a large number of Tinderites in their thirties and beyond. This can pose a problem for a company that may want to seem hip with the younger crowd — an audience that isn’t interested in dating the elderly — even when “30” is the number defining admission to that august age group.

One solution for Tinder is to shape its audience to more closely align with the image it wants to project — shedding older users by charging them more money for the service — a move that not only massages its demographic curve, but also increases per-user profits from those older users who choose to remain.

The new premium service, “Tinder Plus,” adds a “Passport” feature, allowing users to change locations, so that they can hookup wherever they are — a boon for travelers. It also offers a “Rewind” function that allows users to revisit a rejected profile, as well as unlimited liking.

Those are great upgrades, and are available for less than $10 per month — if you’re under 30, that is. Any older and the price doubles. Reports indicate that the pricing also depends upon the user’s location, with Tinder Plus available at a discount rate of $2.99 per month in some developing countries, and at a premium price in other countries — such as in the U.K., where users over 28 are charged $23 per month.

While this pricing structure is undoubtedly shaping Tinder’s audience, the company says that it is not trying to penalize older users, but rather to make its service more affordable for younger users…

“During our testing,” explained a Tinder spokesperson to CBS News, “we’ve learned, not surprisingly, that younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price to pull the trigger.”

“Thirtysomethings are not being discriminated against for being so very, very old,” Amanda Schupak wrote for CBS News. “They’re being gently taken advantage of for having more disposable income (and possibly being just a little more desperate).”

Caleb McLemore summed it up pretty well in his recent “15 Reasons Why Men Over 30 Should Stop Using Tinder,” which might dissuade some Tinder users in that group more than any added costs will.

Audience shaping through price point variance isn’t Tinder’s only move towards providing a better user experience for its core membership, however. Its most recent action involves a new algorithm that limits a user’s likes over a 12 hour time period as a way of curbing those who give little thought to how good a match that like represents. The company reports a dramatic increase in its match quality as a result — and by pruning marketers and spam bots from its ranks.

“We’ve seen a 25 percent increase in the number of matches per right swipe, a 25 percent increase in the number of messages per match, and a 52 percent decrease in spam bots (another of our biggest user complaints),” says the Tinder spokesperson, calling the results “Pretty amazing … this is working exactly the way we intended.”

The problem of how to cope with users on the outliers of a target audience, whether this is a matter of location, platform capabilities, or indeed, the age (or even sex) of certain users, is a challenge faced by all online dating and social communities — with profound implications for inclusiveness and equality of access to services. While the notion of “you can afford more, so you get to pay more,” may have traction in certain circles, it also goes against the core tenant of the recently enacted Net Neutrality mandate — where the driving motivation was equal access for all.

Only time and the marketplace will determine if some demographic groups are willing to pay a premium price for the same products and services served to other users — with Tinder helping to lead the way…

 

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