Tinder — the massively popular smartphone app that has radically simplified the process of online dating — is becoming a household name. "The best analogy is My Space versus Facebook," Hinge founder and CEO Justin Mc Leod said on CNBC in February. For now, it's much less popular than Tinder, but dominant social networks have been dislodged before, and Hinge's focus on making connections through people you already know could win out.That's a pretty rosy assessment, but the analogy is not all wrong.Hinge is growing fast, and it's worth getting to know it.Hinge is a smartphone dating app, available for i Phones/i Pads and Android devices, that's oriented toward relationships rather than hookups and tries to match you with people your friends know and can vouch for. When you sign up, you are presented with a list of fellow users according to criteria you specify (age, gender, physical proximity to you); if you like them and they like you back, you're matched and can message each other.
But the focus is on finding people who are somewhere in your social network.Tinder will tell you if a user happens to have mutual friends with you, but you can't screen to see those users first.Here's a typical screen a Hinge user will see upon opening the app: (Courtesy of Hinge) See the little dots to the left?Those represent how many matches you have to choose from at that moment.But you can't scroll through them — you have to click the heart (to like them) or the X (to pass) on the profile at the top before you can move on.You can also pull up Ed W.'s profile for more info: (Courtesy of Hinge) You can see his height, his college and grad school, any friends you share, and a variety of self-descriptive tags that Hinge lets you choose from (including "country clubber," "bookworm," "joker," "smoker," and "midnight toker").