Fewer hook-ups, more BFF: dating apps change tack to include features for meeting friends

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The dating app scene is making big changes in a post-pandemic world. Apps including Tinder and Bumble say sex is not the priority for many users emerging from periods of isolation.

Instead, they crave the friendships and social groups they have been starved of.

The apps are launching or acquiring new services focused entirely on making friends.

READ MORE | 10 ways you can make new friends before the year ends 

Bumble told Reuters that "people are seeking friendship in ways they would have only done offline before the pandemic."

It plans to invest in a feature called Bumble BFF, or best friends forever. Meanwhile rival Match Group - owner of apps including Tinder and Hinge - is also pushing beyond love and lust.

It paid $1.7 billion this year for South Korean social media firm Hyperconnect, which lets people chat from across the world using real-time translation. Hyperconnect's revenue jumped 50 percent last year.

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Meetup, which helps you meet people with similar interests at local or online events, has seen a 22 percent rise in new members since January. And its most searched word this year was "friends."

According to recent data, other friend-making networks such as MeetMe and Yubo have even outstripped some popular dating apps in terms of daily engagement over the past few months. With many expecting the trend to last.

Dating experts say social isolation had been "staggering" due to the pandemic, with lingering impact on single people living alone.

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