How Does Tinder’s Algorithm Work?

Last updated on 2019-10-13

Tinder’s matching algorithm and the (formerly elo-, or desirability-) score it assigns to you based on a number of factors, determines whose profile you are shown and to whom your profile is shown, and how prominently. Thereby it very much affects with whom you even have the possibility of matching.

As you may have heard, in March 2019 Tinder announced a change to their ranking algorithm, or the way it determines the attractiveness of its users to match them with people of a similar desirability. They no longer use the elo system as such, but the same rules of beneficial and detrimental behaviors still apply. If you are curious about how things used to work, see the archived version of this post. For the current version, read on.

Terminology: The Difference Between Desirability Score, Visibility, and Type Match.

  • The desirability score, or just “score” the algorithm assigns to you used to be the main factor in how many, and which people your profile would be shown to and vice versa, following the Elo rating system. Nowadays it plays a subordinate role but Tinder’s explanations into the matter notwithstanding, still has a major influence on who gets to see your profile. It’s just that it doesn’t express desirability as much as how well you’ve been following the unwritten rules of Tinder, and it punishes you for breaking them. More on the latter later.
  • Visibility can be something much less permanent than your score and is mainly influenced by how recently you have been active on the app. If you go offline for some time, say a week, your profile will get pushed further and further back in people’s queues the longer you stay away, but will pop right back to its usual position once you come back online.
  • “Type match” is a term we came up with to refer to Tinder’s new system of assigning potential matches to each other, for a lack of any official terminology.

 

The Factors by Which the Tinder Algorithm Decides Who Gets to See Whose Profile

Partially based on official Tinder announcements and articles, high confidence results of personal experimentation, and anecdotal evidence (user reports).

Type Match

It appears Tinder has moved on from the relatively simple elo system, wherein your score changes based on who liked you (and those people’s own scores) and you’re assigned potential matches with scores similar to your own.

The type match system (probably) works by a combination of:

  • Identifying whom else people with similar tastes to your own liked, a.k.a. “You may also like…”. I.e. it groups users into types based on who else commonly liked or disliked them and then recommends profiles you should like because people who have liked the same type of profile you have liked in the past also like this one and vice versa.
  • AWS image recognition (courtesy of Amazon). This piece of software (supposedly) recognizes what is going on in an image and likely contributes to Tinder’s profiling efforts by supplying information such as “This user likes people who are playing guitar in their photos”.

While it is interesting to know how Tinder decides who could be a good match for you, there is not really much you can do to influence what kind of type the algorithm will assign you, beyond adjusting or improving your profile. With this change it may finally be feasible to custom tailor your profile to a specific type of person, whereas this used to be a terrible idea due to how much your elo score would suffer. Though you should really know what your target audience is looking for before attempting this, or it may still backfire.

 

“The Score”

Your desirability-, I mean social-, I mean “good boy/girl/whatever user score” may no longer be determined by who liked you, but your behavior on the app definitely still has an influence on the number and quality of potential matches you are both shown and being shown to, as anyone who inadvertently ruined their… score can attest to.

These behaviors the algorithm judges you for seem to have remained largely unchanged. For the long version, I recommend this guide on the DOs and DON’Ts of Tinder. The short version:

  • Your pickiness. Both swiping right to everyone and to almost no one are penalized, though mass swiping right a lot more severely than being too picky. A right swipe quota of 30-70% seems to be the sweet spot. This applies to swiping during paid boosts too. 
  • Resetting your account, or rather, getting caught resetting your account. Once a tried and true method of starting over and receiving a huge initial boost in matches (see “noob boost” below), the algorithm now severely punishes your account’s score when a reset is detected. Resetting your account can still work if you feel it is necessary, but it is very tricky and far from a guaranteed success nowadays.
  • It appears that Tinder Plus users who make liberal use of the unlimited swipes feature may be bricking their account. I.e. Swiping too often per day, or hour, may get you marked as a bot by Tinder, resulting in a kind of shadowban, or very, very low score, rendering you nigh-invisible.

    Testing suggests 2’000 swipes per hour in any direction will get your account “locked” for 12 hours of the app telling you to “Check back later for new people”, potentially also carrying a permanent score punishment with it.

  • Changing your location too often as a Plus user also seems to hurt your score, though it is as of yet unclear where the threshold lies.
  • Whether you actually send messages to most of your matches. Sending messages, as well as receiving replies, appears beneficial. If you’re stuck on that tricky first message, I’ve got you covered.

 

Visibility

While your score determines your visibility to an extent, i.e. how many people your profile is being shown to, and in what position of their queue, there other factors, or events, that determine your short term visibility.

  • Noob boost. New accounts get a boost in visibility (not to be confused with the paid boost feature) lasting approximately a day, during which their profile is shown to a very wide audience and featured prominently in their decks. During this time, an account’s type and score are first determined. Once the boost has run its course, these factors determine your visibility and audience, as described above. This is why you get comparatively many matches in your first few days and why that count drops rapidly within a week. 
  • Traveler’s boost. Very similarly to the noob boost, travelers get a visibility boost when they first arrive at a new location. This, presumably to improve the experience of using Tinder while traveling and not have matches starting to roll in only once you’ve already moved on. This also works for the Tinder Passport feature, though it would be wise not to overdo it.
  • Activity. As mentioned above, your “last active” time has a strong effect on your visibility. All things being equal, it would be advantageous to spread out your swiping throughout the day, as opposed to getting it all done in one big session.

 

I hope you found this guide helpful. Thoughts? Criticism? Praise? Something to add? Feel free to leave a comment below, or visit the SwipeHelper Subreddit. See you there 🙂