Exclusive: Tinder will let women choose same rule as Bumble

Tinder plans to give women more power in its online-dating app by adding a setting similar to a key feature for younger rival Bumble.

Tinder will let female users choose whether they want to initiate all conversations with future matches, as Bumble does, Match Group Inc. MTCH, +4.24%  Chief Executive Mandy Ginsberg told MarketWatch in an interview Tuesday. Tinder users of either gender can make the first move now, but a future update—Tinder did not provide a targeted launch date—will let women choose to receive messages only from men they choose.

“Often, women don’t really want the pressure of kicking off the conversation, but if they want it, that’s great,” said Ginsberg, who took over the top role last month at Match Group. “Giving people the choice versus telling people how to engage is the big difference.”

The women-talk-first setting is the cornerstone of Bumble’s dating app, which also has other features meant to give women more control over the online-dating experience. Bumble was launched by Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd, who left the company and sued for sexual harassment and discrimination, reportedly receiving a $1 million settlement.

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Ginsberg said that Tinder’s feature is “not a reaction to any competitor” and that it’s the result of years of behind-the-scenes talks at the company regarding how its dating brands could better serve female users. Ginsberg vowed to bring those conversations out of the boardroom and into practice after her promotion to chief executive at Match Group, which owns Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid and a number of other online-dating properties.

“We have to constantly listen to what women want and address their needs, not just on Tinder but on all products,” she said.

Match reportedly tried to acquire Bumble at a valuation of more than $1 billion, as the younger app was estimated to top 20 million users. Ginsberg said that the company doesn’t comment on acquisition rumors and is “in a very unique position where we’re seeing such strong business growth that we don’t feel the need to go buy anything.”

Tinder’s new option will be different from Bumble because it allows female users to opt in to starting the conversation instead of making it the standard, Ginsberg noted.

“The feedback that we’ve heard is that women don’t always want to be forced to make a move, so we want to give people the ability to choose,” Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg emphasized that Match is trying to “curtail bad behavior, any negative behavior or advances, and inappropriate communication” across its various dating properties. Also, she noted Match can roll out similar female-focused features globally on other brands, and has already done so at properties like Meetic, a European service that awards a “gentleman’s badge” to its most respectful users.

Tinder is the financial star for Match Group. It accounted for about 30% of the company’s revenue last year, after doubling on an annual basis. Match has said that Tinder has more than 3 million paying subscribers, with a growing new subscription service called Twitter Gold that allows users to see who has already liked their profile.

Momentum for that feature pushed Match Group stock to new highs after earnings, including a record close on Tuesday. Match Group shares have gained 125% in the past 12 months, as the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.26%  has increased 14.1%.

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