Does Tinder’s acquisition of Wheel mean the ‘hook-up’ app is ready to settle down?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if that’s the case Snapchat should be positively blushing right now. Because lately all of the social networks seem to be crushing fairly hard on that friendly ghost. Get a room you guys.

The latest, fittingly in this post-Valentine’s week (or not, depends how you feel about the apps contribution to the decline of dating culture), is Tinder, who last week announced their agreement to acquire Wheel, an LA based startup that lets users share collaborative, video based “stories”. Previously known as ‘Ferris’, the LA based startup was originally founded in 2015 and offered users the ability to mix and collaborate on videos, with some clever automated video editing to make those stories pop.

Unlike Snapchat, Wheel allows strangers to get in touch and send video content to each other, which could be beneficial for Tinder users in preventing catfishing and making it easier to get to know each other. Of course, if you’re a girl who’s ever been on a dating app (or, you know, the internet…) you’ll also see a glaring flaw with allowing strangers to send you videos. But we’ll see how Tinder and the Wheel team work that one out. Terms are not being disclosed, so as yet it’s unknown exactly what they’re planning, but with the rising popularity of disappearing content, and the obvious uses Tinder users might find for that, I predict disappearing video chat may be on the cards.

Of course, as one network finds success in its offering, its only logical that the others will follow suit – we’ve all been hearing about the Snapchat-ification of Instagram, with the addition of stories and disappearing live videos. For Tinder though, the acquisition could signify something bigger; potentially that it’s moving away from its ‘hook-up’ reputation and towards becoming a more generally social app. There’s already a ‘group’ option, that allows users to select up to three friends and swipe on other groups to meet up with, so maybe it’s a natural step to take the chat function up a step and create a destination for catching up and sharing content with friends.

At the end of 2016, Tinder reported it had 1.7 million paying users – more than double what it had the previous year – so it’s also important to look at the ways brands will tap in to this growing market, and how the app may be looking to accommodate them. Video ads are already being served to Tinder users, but video chat could open up a whole new way for brands to interact with their ‘matches’.

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