Tinder is introducing a major new feature today: video calls. Face to Face, as the company calls its own video chats, doesn’t require people to exchange private phone numbers and is rolling out as a test in 13 countries, including in the US in Virginia, Illinois, Georgia, and Colorado, as well as in Australia, Brazil, and France. Not all members in these states and countries will have access, just a select group. The team is hoping to see how well the video calls work from a technical standpoint, like how the servers handle them, before rolling the feature out more widely, says Bernadette Morgan, senior product manager on Tinder’s trust and safety team.
Face to Face differs from other video chat features in a few ways. For one, both people have to opt in to the call to make it happen. Once they tap on the video icon in the right-hand corner of the text chat screen, they’ll be prompted to opt in to video calls with the other person. After they and their match do so, they’ll be able to make the call. They can opt out at any time.
Before calling, both people have to agree to keep the call PG — that means no nudity or sexual content and no references to hate speech, violence, or illegal activities. Once the call starts, users will see the screen split in half, so the caller can always see themselves as large as the person they’re contacting. Morgan says this was done on purpose so people can make sure they still look good and aren’t showing anything in the background they might not want broadcasted.
“We intentionally did this split screen, so you know exactly what you look like on the other person’s phone, so you can feel a little bit more comfortable,” she says. “And then also, we are hoping that it promotes conversation. By having an equal size, you can see the other person [and] they can see you, so hopefully it fosters conversations because conversations are a two-way street.”
Once a video call ends, each person is prompted to answer whether they’d want to have a call again and are also given the opportunity to report someone if they did something inappropriate. That said, the team says it has “no intention” of recording calls, says Rory Kozoll, the head of trust and safety product. So if someone is reported, the team seemingly wouldn’t be able to revisit the offending content. Kozoll says the team is going to “lean heavily” toward trusting user reports and what they say happened.
“Nothing could happen in a call like this that couldn’t happen in any other call,” he says. “So our perspective on it is that we would handle this the same way as if you had had a call through some other app or through your own phone with the person and you reported them to us.”
He declined to give specifics because it’s “complicated,” and moderation decisions are made on a “case-by-case” basis.
User reports are already an important feature for Tinder, although it’s led to the abuse of certain users. Trans women, in particular, say their accounts are unfairly reported and banned by men who target them because they’re trans. Similar issues could occur with video, too, or become even more problematic once images and not just text are involved. Kozoll said he doesn’t want to speak “too specifically” about how Tinder’s technology will police behavior over video calls but that the company is “exploring a lot of different tech approaches.”
This goes for screen recording and screenshots as well. Morgan says blocking screen recording on iOS is more complicated than on Android, and the team is “testing” this now. She didn’t say whether people could concretely screen record or screenshot. It sounds like for now, they can.
Video calling is a huge new product launch for Tinder. It’s one of the biggest dating apps in the world, so it has to moderate global conversations in various languages on top of creating the technology actually needed to make the calls seamless and easy. Elie Seidman, Tinder’s CEO, told The Verge last month that the team had been looking into video calling before the COVID-19 pandemic but decided to accelerate its launch because of the lockdowns around the world and the lack of in-person dates. This feature’s success could be critical to Tinder, especially as countries continue to enter various lockdown stages throughout the year.
Other dating apps already have video calling, including Tinder competitor Bumble. The company launched that feature last year and has seen an uptick in the number of people using it since the pandemic started. Tinder can likely play catch-up while also facilitating a whole new part of the dating timeline. Before, Tinder mainly introduced people to each other, but now, it’s the place they can go on dates to hang out, which the company is hoping to encourage with features like Swipe Night and in-app trivia.