Dating app Tinder has flipped the switch, turning on a video chat feature for its entire user-base. The global rollout of the virtual dates feature, which it's calling 'Face to Face', follows select market tests this summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the usual pattern of hook-up app usage, where a digital swipe right in the afternoon might lead to an in-person meeting that night if both sides of the match are keen. Hence Tinder exploring what can be done with video as a placeholder substitute for at least some of the in-person interactions that aren't now happening because of coronavirus restrictions.
Of course it's treading carefully with the video feature -- wanting to avoid the risk of abuse. So, for example, there's no video chatting unless or until both users have expressed an interest in it by opting in -- and that can only happen after the pair have matched and been chatting for a while.
There's also no notification when a user has opted in to video so the match they're chatting with won't know unless they've opted in themselves.
Users can also disable the feature at any time -- via a simple toggle off. And Tinder requires users to agree to a set of video chat "ground rules" before they can go on the virtual dates (including no nudity or sexual content; no hate speech or harassment; and no content involving minors), as well as asking for feedback after each call.
Evidently it's keen to nip any abuse in the bud.
Another distinctive element is that video chat users are displayed in a 50:50 split screen view -- meaning both camera views are on screen at the same time.
Tinder says the video chat feature has been built by its Trust and Safety team with the aim of prioritising member’s safety and ensuring they're in control at all times. Although whether the steps it's taken will be enough to avoid abusive use by a determined perpetrator remains to be seen.
As we noted in July the platform does not screen its user base for sexual predators -- and retrospective screening systems can't help people who feel unsafe in the moment. So it's a feature users should approach with caution -- and only enable if they feel entirely comfortable doing so with a particular person.
Commenting on the launch in a statement, Rory Kozoll, head of trust and safety product at Tinder said: “We’re excited to share that our Face to Face feature is rolling out to our global community after receiving positive feedback from our members who have had early access to it. This adds to our growing list of features built focused on member safety throughout their dating journey, like Photo Verification, Safety Center and our offensive message detection technology. ”