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‘There was still a huge demographic that thought online dating was for losers.
‘Most people either had no idea what internet dating was, or they thought it was for geeks and losers who were light on social skills.’ The matchmaking machinery was pretty unsophisticated at this stage.We just used big data to look at what we could learn about people,’ Thombre adds.‘Today, about five per cent of all American marriages are between people who met online.’ By the early Noughties, everyone knew Real Human Beings who had met other Normal People online.‘OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish were funded by irreverent ads; they used irreverent language. Many imitators followed, including Jack’d and Scruff. See a face, dismiss it, over and over and over again. Between 20, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds using dating apps shot up from ten per cent to 27 per cent; that’ll be down to Tinder, which launched in 2014. It’s strict on picture quality, so no fuzzy mugshot selfies taken by the urinals in the Gents. It downloads your Linked In profile and everyone is vetted; it has a waiting list of 100,000, allegedly. We’re more like Soho House or [high-end gym chain] Equinox,’ says League’s community and operations manager, Meredith Davis.They helped remove the stigma and make online dating more cool.’ Of course, the seismic shift for online dating, as for much else, came with the arrival of the smartphone. With the smartphone came Grindr in 2009 (gay men were way ahead of the game, as always) and the digital cruising of the location-based dating app. But it took five years for the hetero version of Grindr to drop. Today, Thombre’s Match Group owns some of the biggest names in digital dating including Tinder, and controls around 25 per cent of a market estimated to create bn in revenue in the US alone. I speak to a 26-year-old who writes for a well-known super-cool website. League members meet up, IRL, and human beings, not algorithms, check if you’re handsome and smart enough.
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Guardian Soulmates didn’t have a ‘secret sauce’, but it brought together people who read the same newspaper. ‘What people wanted was demographic, not psychographic assistance,’ says Thombre.