The conventional impressions of a shy and awkward Chinese youth may no longer fit into the reality. They have a more and more open mindset towards dating and socializing, said Wang Yu, Chief Executive Officer of Tantan (探探) at TechCrunch Hangzhou. Despite growing audience base, matching them is still not easy.

Tantan’s matches two people when they both like each other on the app. After liking a certain amount of users, the platform will push you users of a similar kind. This is a common strategy used by recommendation systems in various applications. However, there’s always a concern that this will, in the end, limit what users can see or, in Tantan’s scenario, talk to, and possibly miss out the one that fits you most.

Wang said it is difficult for algorithms to achieve both variety and accuracy at the same time. Wang referred to the Nash equilibrium in situations Prisoners’ Dilemma. If people only greedily satisfy their own demand without cooperation when cooperation is in their best interests, the result will not be optimal for the community as a whole. However, unlike prisoners who cannot communicate to form a partnership, algorithms within the platform can see things from a God’s-eye-view.

Wang illustrated the idea with a hypothetical case: Imagine there are two ladies and two men. Lady A and Man A are soul mates while Lady B definitely doesn’t like Men B. Meanwhile, Lady B is okay with Man A and Lady A is okay with Man B too. In this case, if Lady A matches with Man A, Lady B and Man B will gain nothing. If Lady A matches with Men B and Lady B with Men A, everyone can have someone. Therefore, even if Lady A doesn’t match with her soulmate, the results achieve the optimal result for four of them.

“If you’ve seen the movie Beautiful Mind, Nash, his main theory there is that, optimizing the benefit for yourself, the best way to do that is to try to optimize the benefits for society,” Wang said.

Tantan is popular among Chinese from late teens to their thirties. Users will be presented with a pile of photos. If they like someone and want to start a conversation, they will swipe right to like them. Otherwise, they swipe left. If two people both swipe right for each other, they will be matched and start their conversation. Because of similar features and matching mechanisms, the app is often referred to as Chinese Tinder. In fact, Match Group, owner of Tinder, sued Tantan for patent and trademark infringement, but the company settled with Tantan earlier this year. Tantan redesigned its US app and now makes annual royalty payments to Tinder, according to Match Group’s first-quarter earnings in 2018.

Wang said that despite the growing demand from young people to socialize, they lack channels and thus, he wanted to provide one. He refused to limit Tantan to a place solely for dating, hook-up or long-term relationships and said all single people are their target audience. However, the common belief is that the app is still a place for hook-ups only.

Jiefei Liu is a Beijing based tech reporter. She focuses on the union of tech and content creation and loves agriculture. You can write to her at

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