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The Rise of Online Dating, and the Company That Dominates the Market

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How couples meet, online dating

The Rise of Online Dating, and the One Company That Dominates the Market

Couples used to meet in real life, but now more and more people are “matching” online.

While online dating was once considered taboo, the number of couples meeting online has more than doubled in the last decade to about 1-in-5. Nowadays, you’re much more likely to meet your next partner online rather than through your family or co-workers. But don’t worry, your friends are still a good help too.

The data used in today’s chart is from the “How Couples Meet and Stay Together” survey by Stanford University. This unique dataset charts a significant shift in the way couples meet each other, and demonstrates how our changing communication habits are driving massive growth in the online dating market.

The Rise of Dating Apps

The rise of online dating in the last decade goes hand in hand with the rise of dating apps.

Tinder globally popularized app-based matchmaking when it launched on iPhones in 2012, and later on Android in 2013. Unlike traditional dating websites, which required lengthy profiles and complicated profile searches, Tinder gamified online dating with quick account setups and its “swipe-right-to-like” approach. By 2017, Tinder had grown to 57 million active users across the globe and billions of swipes per day.

Since the launch of Tinder, hundreds of dating services have appeared on app stores worldwide. Investors are taking notice of this booming market, while analysts estimate the global online dating market could be worth $12 billion by next year.

But it might surprise you that despite the growing variety of dating options online, most popular apps are owned by just one group.

The Big Business of Dating Apps: Match Group

Today, nearly all major dating apps are owned by the Match Group, a publicly-traded pure play that was spun out of IAC, a conglomerate controlled by media mogul Barry Diller.

IAC saw the online dating trend early, purchasing early online dating pioneer Match.com way back in 1999. However, with online dating shifting into the mainstream over recent years, the strategy quickly shifted to aggressively buying up major players in the market.

We’re highly acquisitive, and we’re always talking to companies. If you want to sell, you should be talking to us.

–Mandy Ginsberg, Match Group CEO

In addition to its prized app Tinder – which doubled its revenue in 2018 to $805 million – Match Group owns popular online dating services like OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Hinge, and has even bought out international competitors like Meetic in Europe, and Eureka in Japan. The dating giant reported revenues of $1.73 billion in 2018.

match group timeline chart

According to reports, Match Group now owns more than 45 dating-related businesses, including 25 acquisitions.

As Match Group continues to swallow up the online dating market, it now boasts dating sites or apps in every possible niche – including the four most-used apps in the United States.

Match Group online dating users in U.S.

Despite Match Group’s dominant efforts, there are still two competitors that remain outside the dating giant’s reach.

The One That Got Away

In 2017, Match Group tried to acquire its last major competitor, Bumble – which had grown to over 23 million users in just three years – for $450 million. Bumble rejected the offer and by the next year, Match Group sued Bumble for patent infringement, for what some felt was a bargaining chip to force an acquisition.

Bumble responded with an ad in the Dallas Morning News denouncing Match Group: “We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now, to intimidate us. We’ll never be yours. No matter the price tag, we’ll never compromise our values.”

It remains to be seen if Match Group will be able to acquire Bumble, but another tech giant’s decision to launch its own dating service has also complicated Match’s conquest of the online dating market.

New Face in Town

In 2018, social media giant Facebook launched its own dating service—potentially leveraging its 2.2 billion active users—to join the online dating market.

While the announcement initially caused Match Group’s stock to drop 21%, it since has rebounded as Facebook has been slow to roll out their service.

Going forward, Match Group’s dominance may be hindered by anti-trust calls in the U.S., Bumble’s growth and direct competition to Tinder, and whether the sleeping giant Facebook can change the global online dating market with its own service.

Who will win our hearts?

Hat tip to Nathan Yau at Flowing Data, who introduced us to the data on how couples meet. His dynamic chart is worth a look as well.

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History

Internet Browser Market Share (1996–2019)

This animation provides a nostalgic look back at the market share of various web browsers, from Netscape Navigator to Google Chrome.

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browser market share

Internet Browser Market Share (1996–2019)

Web browsers are a ubiquitous part of the internet experience and one of the most commonly used digital tools of the modern era.

Since the first rudimentary interfaces were created in the 1990s, a number of browsers have entered the market, with a select few achieving market dominance over our access to web content.

Today’s bar chart race video, by the YouTube channel Data is Beautiful, is a nostalgic look back at how people used to access the internet, from Mosaic to Chrome.

The First Wave of Browsers

Simply put, web browsers are the software applications that act as our portal to the internet. Today, aside from the occasional pop-up box, we barely notice them. In the early ’90s though, when the web was in its infancy, the crude, boxy interfaces were a revolutionary step in making the internet usable to people with access to a computer.

The first step in this journey came in 1990, when the legendary Tim Berners-Lee developed the first-ever web browser called “WorldWideWeb” – later renamed Nexus. Nexus was a graphical user interface (GUI) that allowed users to view text on web pages. Images were still beyond reach, but since most connections were dial-up, that wasn’t much of a limitation at the time.

Nexus browser example

The precurser to the modern browser was Mosaic, originally developed as a temporary project by the the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

After his graduation from UIUC in 1993, Marc Andreessen teamed up with Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics, to produce a commercial version of the browser. The resulting software, Netscape Navigator, became the first widely used browser, moving the internet from an abstract concept to a network that was accessible to everyday people. The company soon staged a wildly popular IPO, which saw the 16-month-old startup reach a valuation of nearly $3 billion.

Naturally, the fanfare surrounding Netscape had captured Microsoft’s attention. Immediately after Netscape’s IPO, the first version of Internet Explorer (building off a licensed version of Mozilla) was released. The browser wars had begun.

The Internet Explorer Era

In 1995, Bill Gates was looking to capitalize on the “Internet Tidal Wave”, and was up to the challenge of eating into Netscape’s market share, which stood at about 90%.

A new competitor “born” on the Internet is Netscape. We have to match and beat their offerings…

– Bill Gates

Ultimately, Netscape was no match for Internet Explorer (IE) once it was bundled with the Windows operating system. By the dawn of the new millennium (beware Y2K!) the situation had reversed, with IE capturing over 75% of the browser market share.

With Netscape mostly out of the picture, IE had a stranglehold on the market. In fact, Microsoft’s position was so comfortable that after IE6 was released 2001, the next full version wouldn’t ship until 2006.

It was during this time that a new player came onto the scene. Mozilla Firefox was officially launched in 2004, seeing over 60 million downloads within its first nine months. For the first time in years, Microsoft began to feel the heat of competition.

Goliath and Goliath

Despite the growing popularity for Mozilla Firefox, it was a browser backed by another tech giant that would eventually lead to IE’s downfall – Google Chrome.

Chrome was pitched to the public in 2008 as “a fresh take on the browser”. While Microsoft struggled with open web standards, Chrome’s source code was openly available through Google’s Chromium project.

By 2011, Firefox and Chrome had eroded IE’s market share to below 50%, and a year later, Chrome would end Internet Explorer’s 14-year reign as the world’s top internet browser.

Today, the browser market has come full circle. Chrome has now become the dominant browser on the market, while competitors fight to increase their single-digit market shares. IE has dropped to fourth place.

Looking Back at the Peaks

In the 25 years since Netscape gave people access to the internet, a few browsers have had their moment in the sun. Here are the years of peak market share for all the major browsers:

BrowserPeak Market SharePeak Year
Netscape Navigator90%1995
Internet Explorer95%2004
Opera3%2009
Mozilla Firefox32%2010
Safari7%2012

Once a browser becomes popular, it can be incredibly difficult to carve into its market share. Even during the height of the iPhone era, Apple’s browser, Safari, was only able to manage a 7% market share.

For now, it looks like Chrome will continue to be the world’s preferred method of experiencing the internet. If Chrome’s current trajectory continues, it could become the third major browser to surpass a 90% market share.

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Chart of the Week

The Sum of Its Parts: The Smartphone Multiplier Market

Every day, 3.3 billion people rely on their smartphones to stay connected. The products and services enabling this—the smartphone multiplier market—is now worth $459 billion.

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The Sum of Its Parts: The Smartphone Multiplier Market

There’s a 60% chance you’re reading this article on a smartphone right now—a testament to how ubiquitous these devices have truly become in our lives.

We rely on smartphones every waking minute to stay connected. However, the various products and services—also known as the smartphone multiplier market—that allow us to use these devices in the first place can often be an afterthought.

Today’s chart uses data from Deloitte Insights to show just how sizable this ecosystem is becoming, and why it’s heating up as a battleground for big technology companies such as Apple, Alphabet, and Amazon.

The Smartphone Plateau

There are over 3.3 billion smartphone users in the world today.

The smartphone economy—estimated to pull in $944 billion in total revenue in 2020—is so massive that it rivals the GDP of countries like Indonesia and the Netherlands.

At the moment, the smartphones themselves contribute over half the market value. Despite the continued hype surrounding the release of new models, global unit shipments of smartphone devices appears to have reached a saturation point:

Smartphone Sales

There are two theories as to why shipments are leveling off. First, product innovation is more iterative today than in the past, which means there are fewer groundbreaking features to entice consumers into purchasing new devices. A second factor is that people are simply holding onto their devices for longer than in the past.

As device sales plateau, tech giants are diversifying efforts to find new ways to lure customers back in—and another related market is growing more lucrative as a result.

What is a “Smartphone Multiplier”?

When people think of the smartphone market, hardware likely springs to mind first, but an equally important part of the equation is the plethora of apps, services, accessories, and complementary devices that help us connect with the digital world.

The ecosystem of these products and services are known as smartphone multipliers. According to Deloitte, this ecosystem will drive $459 billion of revenues in 2020, an impressive 15% increase from the prior year.

The market can be broken down into three main categories:

CategoryMarket Value (2020e)Sub-categories
Content$312B
(68% of total)
$176B: Mobile ads
$118B: Apps
$10B: Music
$8B: Video
Hardware$111B
(24% of total)
$77B: Accessories
$25B: Wearables
$9B: Smart speakers
Services$37B
(8% of total)
$18B: Insurance
$12B: Repairs
$4B: Others
$3B: Storage

Largely driven by mobile advertising and app sales, content is by far the largest subcategory, accounting for 68% of revenues:

  • Mobile advertising surpassed TV as the largest advertising channel in 2019, partially thanks to the relentless growth of online video and social media, making ads virtually unavoidable on a smartphone.
  • Gaming apps are benefiting from the immense processing power of today’s smartphones—and will bring in over two-thirds of total app revenue in 2020. Apple’s app store brought in approximately $1.8 billion in sales between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day alone.
    • If you’ve ever owned a pair of headphones or a powerbank, it’s easy to understand why accessories are the third-largest subcategory in the smartphone multiplier market. With more people ditching the cable for wireless headphones, this subcategory is also set to grow even more.

      The Next $1T Economy?

      In the U.S., 73% of adults go online several times a day or almost constantly, which makes it clear that they aren’t going to give up their smartphones anytime soon.

      As a result, smartphone multipliers will continue to evolve and flourish, presenting a unique opportunity for investors and businesses.

      Altogether, it’s expected that the smartphone multiplier market will grow between 5 and 10% annually through 2023, likely propelling the entire smartphone economy past the $1 trillion benchmark in the coming years.

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