A Flavorwire editor recently slammed D.C.’s homegrown dating app, Hinge, for not really caring about gay people. The distinctive characteristic of the dating app, which was born at the District’s 1776 tech incubator, is that instead of matching people with random strangers, it matches people with users in their extended social network—i.e., people who are Facebook friends with their Facebook friends. In theory, if a gay user has a small D.C. network of gay friends, he or she would have trouble meeting other gay people on the app.
Tyler Coates, the Flavorwire editor, noticed that, as a gay man, his matches were limited, and he eventually started getting paired with straight men. He wrote an email to Hinge, and a community manager wrote back saying the app had a “relatively small number” of gay users. In another email, a customer insight specialist wrote to Coates conceding that the app had done a “pretty poor job of attracting a gay userbase.”
Hinge wasn’t as upfront to me with any potential failings in serving the LGBT community: Brand Marketing Manager Karen Fein says Hinge can’t reveal any user numbers, but that the app has a “strong and growing gay user base.” Fein says the app plans to grow its gay userbase, in part through exclusive events this summer in D.C. and in other cities.
The app is also limited in its sexual orientation and gender options. Hinge allows people to indicate that they’re gay or straight, but has no option for bisexual, transgender, and queer people. (This isn’t exclusively a problem for Hinge. OkCupid, for instance, lists bisexual as a sexual orientation option, but limits gender to M or F.) The fledgling dating app recently fled its D.C. offices for New York, but the District—a city where 10 percent of the adult population identifies as LGBTQ—is still Hinge’s hometown. It should do a better job of honoring its roots.