Russian state-controlled internet major VK (formerly Mail.ru Group) is reportedly developing its own dating application to fill the space left by the exit of Match Group, the owner of popular dating apps Tinder and Hinge, from the Russian market.
According to daily Vedomosti, citing unnamed sources close to the company, the app could be linked directly to popular social network VKontakte, and could be launched as early as summer 2023. VK also runs two other social networks, Odnoklassniki and Moi Mir.
Match Group’s decision to leave the Russian market comes more than a year after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, triggering the severance of business relationships between Moscow and numerous Western companies. Match’s primary competitor Bumble Inc. blocked downloads in both Russia and Belarus in 2022, leaving behind a potential gap in market for a new application. Bumble also owns popular app Badoo.
VKontake already has an integrated service VK Dating that could potentially become the basis for the new app. In May 2023, VK Dating's cumulative year-on-year audience grew 81% to 22.1mn unique users, VK said in a statement cited by Vedomosti. The service's active monthly audience was more than 2.4mn people.
Analysts surveyed by Vedomosti, VK Dating currently suffers from privacy concerns from users that could be unwilling to directly link their public social media profiles to a dating app. The creation of a stand-alone application could alleviate these concerns, and allow VK to use its huge domestic user base to create a strong competitor in the Russian domestic market.
Sergey Villanov, an analyst of accelerator Fintech Lab, told Vedomosti that separating dating functionality into a separate platform is a logical step, and suggested that the success of a new VK Dating app could depend on the fair pricing of premium services. VK should also have the ability to accept payments from abroad to attract Western men to the platform, he said.
The analysts also predicted that foreign dating apps such as Tinder, Pure, and Badoo would still be used by those Russians looking for romance abroad, while VK could snap up market share from Mamba, LovePlanet, FotoStrana and DrugVokrug, the most popular domestic dating apps.