Only a few years ago online dating was that thing many of us assumed that only desperate or creepy people did, and no-one dared admit to searching for or having met their partner online; today, it's the easiest way for singles to meet new people, and it seems as though all the single ladies (and men) are doing it.

There are plenty of great dating apps out there, but there's one app in particular people are using: Tinder. Here we explain what Tinder is, how to use it, why it's so popular, and more, including why you might not be getting any interest.

I've lost track of the number of friends who've asked me about Tinder. And I'm not entirely sure why, since I'm not single. But it just goes to show how interested are people in the dating app. I do have several close friends who use Tinder, however, so I took the opportunity to force on them a game of 20 questions in an effort to answer your Tinder FAQs. Special thanks goes to Paul, who let me have a nosey at his Tinder profile.

What is Tinder? 

Tinder is an online dating app that matches couples based on their physical attraction to one another. It alerts you to other Tinder users who fall within a specified age range and gender and are within a certain distance of your location, and it lets you know whether you have any mutual friends.

You decide whether or not you like the look of a person: if you do, great; if you don't, they'll never know. If you're both interested then Tinder's messaging function offers you a private chat thread in which to talk and get to know each other better. It's very much like being introduced to the hot friend of a friend in a bar, but it removes the clumsy, drunken matchmaker and the want-to-curl-up-and-die cringeworthiness from the equation. 

How do I get Tinder?

Tinder is available as a free app for Android or iOS; just download it from the App Store or Google Play.

Previously you would need a Facebook account to log in, but in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal Tinder added the option to create an account using only a phone number. That will prevent you from using some of the app's features though, such as pulling photos directly from Facebook, and showing you when you have mutual friends or Likes with another user.

Why is Tinder the most popular dating app?

The people we've spoken to about Tinder like it because it's so simple: there's no 400-question registration process, and it doesn't put you in a box for - as an example - saying you're a non-smoker when actually you have been known to indulge on occasion and wouldn't particularly mind dating someone who smokes.

And while personalities are ultimately what's important in a long-term relationship, Tinder recognises that when developing an attraction establishing how well suited you are to a person often comes second to the way they look. It's also perfectly suited to mobile use, such as when you're in the pub, you've had a few beers and you've got your game face on.

How do I use Tinder? 

Tinder is a really simple app to use. Just download it, log in with your Facebook profile, specify the gender and age range of the people you'd like to meet, and how far you're prepared to travel to meet them. When Tinder finds people who match those criteria it places cards on your screen that show a large photo of the person; tap this to see a short description they've written.

Below the picture is a heart icon and a cross - tap the heart if you like them and the cross if you don't - or swipe to the right if you like them, and to the left if you don't. If you like someone who also likes you Tinder will tell you that a match has been made and opens up a simple messaging function. 

You'll also have to fill out your own profile. Tinder pulls some information from your Facebook profile, such as your job and education, but you can choose what to display and write out a short bio of yourself. You also need to pick a few photos to include - you can pull these either from your phone's image library or your Facebook account.

Tinder will also do its best to help you out thanks to a feature called Smart Photos. If you choose to activate it, it will continually assess how favourably people have responded to each of your profile photos, and automatically order them so that your most popular photo appears first - taking out all the guesswork as to which photo you look best in.

You can also link your Tinder to both Instagram and Spotify. The former will show your most recent Instagram photos on your profile (with a link to your Insta account) while the latter will let you pick an 'anthem' and show off your favourite Spotify artists.

Super Likes and Boosts

Since Tinder launched it's added a few new features to give hopeful singles some more options. First up are 'Super Likes' - you can Super Like someone by tapping the blue star icon or swiping up on their profile - unlike a regular attempt to match, this will immediately send them a notification that they've been Super Liked and the chance to see your profile. It's a more upfront way to try and match with someone, but be warned that some users can see it as slightly too forward. With a free account you can also only use one Super Like per day, so use it wisely.

One of the other more recent features is Boost. This is a paid option that pushes your profile to the top of the queue of every Tinder user nearby for 30 minutes, making it much more likely you'll get matches over the next half hour. A single boost costs £3.89, so they're not cheap, but you can get them at a discount by buying packs of five or ten. You can find the Boosts by tapping the purple lightning bolt icon.

Tinder Plus

If you're serious about trying to use Tinder to make a match, you might want to consider investing in Tinder Plus. This is a premium, paid tier, which offers a few advantages in exchange for a monthly fee. There are a few benefits to Plus: for one, it makes Tinder ad-free. It also gives you one free Boost per month, and five Super Likes per day, rather than just one. 

Plus-exclusive features are a 'rewind' button so that you can re-do your last swipe in case you accidentally went the wrong way, and the ability to change your location - this is useful if you're planning a trip and want to match with a few people before you arrive.

The biggest benefit of Tinder Plus is that it lifts the 'right swipe limit'. Normal users can only swipe right on so many users per day before they have to wait 12 hours - a way of discouraging people from trying to match with every profile they come across. There's no fixed number of swipes you're allowed, as it's determined by an algorithm based on your typical behaviour, but either way, Tinder Plus users can swipe to their heart's content.

So how much does Tinder Plus cost? Again, there's no easy answer. Pricing is determined for each user by Tinder's algorithm, with prices based in large part on your age: the younger you are, the cheaper it costs. It can reportedly range from as low as £1.49 per month right up to £14.99 per month - with discounts if you commit to six months or a year in advance.

Tinder Gold

Just to make things even more confusing, Tinder has a second, separate paid tier called Tinder Gold, which offers all of the features of Tinder Plus, and two big additions: Likes You and Picks.

Likes You does what it sounds like - it lets you see who's already swiped right on you, so you can make sure to pay special attention to the profiles of people who you know like you before you commit to swiping in return.

Picks is a more recent Gold feature, which shows you a daily selection of profiles selected specifically for you by the Tinder algorithm. You'll see a few picks each day (but they disappear after 24 hours), with each including a highlight drawn from their profile - things like 'Doctor' or 'Adventurer'. You can also pay extra to access additional Picks each day. At the time of writing the feature is still rolling out, so depending on your country and operating system, you might not see it yet.

As for pricing, expect to pay an extra $4.99/£3.49 per month on top of Tinder Plus, with discounts for longer commitments - and again, variations depending on age.

Tinder Online

Tinder may have been one of the first dating apps to move people away from clunky websites, but things have come full circle as Tinder itself moves into your browser.

The company launched Tinder Online, a web-based version of the app designed to give people access to Tinder even if they don't own a smartphone - or just don't happen to have access to one at the moment. Just head to Tinder.com and sign into your account and you can use all the normal Tinder features - including Super Likes, Boosts, and Rewind - chat with your matches, and even edit your profile.

Best of all, there's 'work mode' - a button that brings up a semi-convincing imitation of a Google Drive document in case your manager picks just the wrong moment to walk past your desk.

Tinder Social

You might remember that a while ago Tinder made a big fanfare about adding extra functionality called Tinder Social, which let you join up with a few friends to form a group, and then swipe through other groups to find people you'd like to match with for a group chat.

If you're looking for Tinder Social in your own app, don't bother though - the company discontinued the feature in 2017, claiming that while it had been successful, it "didn’t fit cleanly with our future direction." RIP Tinder Social.

Why aren't I getting any interest on Tinder?

Tinder is a two-way street - you can't just sign up, forget about the app and hope people will come to you. Because the messaging system is opened up only when both parties have confirmed their interest, you won't know anyone has liked you unless you also like them. So if you want to see results, open up the Tinder app and get involved.

What happens if I like someone and they don't like me? 

There's no need to hide your face in shame. The only way someone will know if you've liked them on Tinder is if they like you too, then a match is made and the messaging function between the pair of you becomes active. So set your sights as high as you like - no-one will call you on it.

Will someone know if I don't like them? 

Likewise, Tinder won't tell someone who fancies you that the feeling isn't mutual. That person might eventually work it out when several weeks have passed and a match hasn't been made, but the chances are they've liked a few people in that time and won't be pinning all their hopes on you. It's a very gentle way of letting down those in whom you're not interested without hurting their feelings.

Will I meet a psycho on Tinder? 

Only the people you've liked are allowed to contact you on Tinder, so there's no chance that you'll get a bunch of unsolicited messages; and those users you have allowed can be blocked if they get annoying or a bit creepy. But you do still need to apply the same rules on Tinder as you would with any online dating site: you'll never really know who you're agreeing to meet until you do so.