The View From .Me
You will find the original TechCrunch article here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/25/facebook-can-disrupt-online-dating/
by Brian Bowman
The responsibility of dating sites should be to facilitate great first dates. Unfortunately, the dating industry has chosen to protect its charge-to-communicate business model instead of give consumers access to information to make an educated decision about a potential date: Is my date a real person? Who do we know in common and what mutual interests do we share?
But there is a site out there with 1 billion people that is quite familiar with my friends and me, as well as all of our interests: Facebook.
I have been involved in the dating and social industries since 2003. I was the vice president of product at Match.com, then vice president of community at Yahoo and am now the founder and CEO of Likeit.com. I met my wife on an online dating site, and we have been happily married for nine years.
Since the launch of Match in 1995, singles have searched for fun and love online by attempting to describe themselves in 500 words or fewer. They check boxes, they answer quizzes, and they hope for the best. This method has worked for some, but it has left millions of other users dateless and dissatisfied with their online dating experiences. A shallow pool of compelling matches, coupled with outdated information, leads to a constant churn of unhappy daters. Singles belong to 2.5 dating sites on average, expressing their desire to reach more people and find a better solution.
Men and women experience online dating very differently – think hunter-gatherer. Men typically send out hundreds of quickly written emails hoping someone will respond. Women can receive hundreds of emails a week, but respond to less than 2 percent. Part of the single’s frustration is that you can’t respond to an email unless you pay. On average, fewer than 10 percent of people subscribe to and unlock communication, meaning 90 percent of people can’t respond to your emails.
To complicate the single’s experience further, most dating profiles are static and lack social network updates. The site restricts information sharing to prevent identity leakage and maintain control over communication. A common question you will hear most singles ask when they first meet is, “Who do we know in common?” While real identity is standard on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, a majority of dating sites require anonymity, which prevents consumers from seeing mutual friends. The result: Most consumers don’t pay, and they abandon sites in frustration.
WHY HASN’T SOCIAL DISCOVERY DISRUPTED ONLINE DATING?
The social discovery market can be distilled into two primary markets: business networking and dating. While Badoo, Tagged and MeetMe position themselves as “meeting new people,” their primary use case is dating. Each has achieved reasonable success, but they have not integrated Facebook’s social graph so you can see someone’s friends. There is a lot of untapped opportunity to disrupt traditional dating if they take steps to integrate further with Facebook.
WHY HASN’T A KILLER SOCIAL DATING APP TAKEN OFF?
I remain convinced that online dating will evolve and integrate social elements. People have always met through mutual friends and shared interests, and bringing these capabilities online will enhance the user experience. But for most startups, there is a significant cold-start problem. Few startups are funded well enough to afford the marketing required to achieve scale. To be a successful, U.S.-wide, general-purpose dating site you need about 250,000 profiles. This allows the display of meaningful search results when singles filter for age, ethnicity, religion, distance and sexual preference.
Since most social dating sites can’t afford to buy users, they launch features to get viral. However, independent of age, four out of ten people will not post publicly on Facebook that they are using a dating app, and this arrests virality. The reluctance to share romantic activities on Facebook seems due in part to the intimacy of dating and the desire to share only with close family and friends. Many people feel increased reluctance to share their romantic endeavors on Facebook, because their group of Facebook friends has grown substantially to include co-workers, high school/college friends and extended family.
To illustrate the challenge, no social dating site has gained meaningful traction: theComplete.me (10,000), Yoke (10,000—Buzzfeed acqui-hire), Circl.es (1,000), LikeBright (1,000), thedatable (200), and atthepool.com (Alexa Rank 164,000) have struggled, while Wings, Gelato, and Thread are shuttered.
Despite these challenges and lack of innovation by the leaders, the online dating industry continues to be recession-proof – it is growing and has won wide acceptance among singles today. With Facebook’s Graph Search and the company’s newly expressed interest in online dating, can it reinvent dating, drive down the associated stigma and expand the market?
While the primary hurdle for Facebook may be privacy, there are other challenges, too. Just because someone’s profile indicates they are single does not mean they are ready for dating or want to be contacted by a stranger. On Facebook, receiving messages from strangers feels creepy (paid or not).
Facebook’s profiles are shallow and not representative of a user’s current interests or romantic preferences. Facebook’s structured data for things like movies, books, restaurants and sports is not as good as Netflix, Yelp, Amazon, etc. If Facebook becomes more competitive in these areas, will they maintain access to structured third-party feeds?
The real question may be how important is the dating market to Facebook? It will be a challenge to run so many vertical solutions: dating, recruiting, ratings, reviews, etc. Will they pick a few ideas on which to focus, and will dating make the cut?
HOW CAN FACEBOOK DISRUPT ONLINE DATING?
First, Facebook can assure singles that dating can be a completely private experience, and that dating activities will not be published on a wall unless singles want it to be published. Facebook can create a pseudo-closed environment by offering a dedicated dating section in About Me and allowing singles to choose whether that section is public, private or only viewable by people with dating profiles.
Facebook can easily leverage their massive social graph to enable meaningful friend-of-friend introductions. They can create very detailed, self-updating profiles by displaying and structuring data from Pinterest, Spotify, Pandora, Yelp, Netflix, Amazon, ESPN, GoodReads and more.
They can dominate real-time communication: chat, check-ins, poke, texting and Skype video chat. To help singles feel more comfortable, they can even set up a “dating inbox” to isolate unsolicited messages. To improve both the quality and response rates of emails, they can allow anonymous ratings of senders, and reward those with good behavior and thoughtful emails.
If I am on a date and I know we share trail running, Bikram yoga, spiritual books, action movies and five mutual friends, I have a lot of topics I can discuss. Facebook Graph Search will allow singles to find that special someone and could be transformational to the industry.
But most importantly, by simply allowing consumers to share their user names from other dating sites, Facebook can maintain the existing industry’s niches while allowing search and free communication across all dating services. In doing so, Facebook can simultaneously dismantle the pay-to-communicate business model that underpins a majority of the revenue in the industry today, and reinvent online dating by creating a massive front door that allows consumers to have a compelling, high-quality experience for free.
Here’s the link to the original TechCrunch article: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/25/facebook-can-disrupt-online-dating/
In our latest poll we asked if the government should legalize soft drugs for medical use and a majority of people said yes (1,777 to 596). Interesting enough, when the same people were asked if they would legalize gambling 1,374 said no and 811 said yes. To round out the questions, we also asked people if they still need the right to carry a gun and the answer was a strong yes (1,963 vs 450).
How would you answer these questions, check them out on theComplete.me.
We have been running a new bit-sized social game called Would Your Rather, and after a couple thousand people have played, we have found the results pretty interesting and think you will too. To play for yourself, click here.
Who would you rather be President
Barack Obama – (1067)
Mitt Romney – (853)
Would you rather believe global warming is
Fact – (1058)
Fiction – (550)
Would you rather be Pro-Life or Pro-Choice
Pro-Life – (766)
Pro-Choice – (789)
Would you rather support
Gay Marriage – (503)
Civil Unions – (848)
Would you rather have
the Death Penalty - (924)
Life in prison without parole – (539)
What would you do with immigrants
build a wall / kick them out – (639)
pathway to citizenship – (780)
Should legalize soft drugs for medical use
No – (389)
Legalize it – (1131)
Would you legalize gambling
No – (865)
Yes – (531)
Do you believe we still need the right to carry a gun
Yes – (1263)
No – (280)
Obesity is a disease
yes – (847)
No – (555)
Would you rather have steroids in sports
Make them huge and fast – (82)
No, I like them natural – (1365)
Would you legalize doctor-assisted suicide
Yes, end of life is a personal decision – (712)
No person should be able to legally kill – (612)
Would you stop medical research on animals
Yes, it should be stopped. It’s cruel – (839)
No, we need safe animal research – (482)
Would you allow cloning of animals
No, we do not understand the long term issues – (893)
Yes, it has been proven safe – (388)
Would you allow cloning of people
No – (1094)
Yes – (211)
Would you encourage your kids to participate in sports
Yes – (1300)
No – (80)
Would you rather be
best chef in the world – (763)
best film director in the world – (579)
Would you prefer cigarettes are made illegal
No – (769)
Yes – (536)
Would you prefer zoos be shut down
Yes – (237)
No – (1079)
Would you prefer all citizens be required to vote by law
Yes – (488)
No – (782)
Do video games contribute to youth violence
No, it’s just a game – (540)
Yes, too much violence – (420)
Would you prefer military service be required
Yes – (388)
No – (500)
Would you prefer hunting be restricted to environmental areas
No – (443)
Yes – (426)
Do you prefer sex education be taught in schools
Yes – (743)
No – (159)
Below are excerpts from an article by Eli Finkel published in Scientific America debunking the “matching algorithms” used by eHarmony, Chemistry.com, PerfectMatch.com, GenePartner.com, and FindYourFaceMate.com. To summarize the article, there is no scientific validity to the claims that personality testing can produce or predict relationship success.
I was the VP of Product Strategy at Match.com when eHarmony launched. After multiple conversations with PhDs, the company understood that personality testing was snake oil but it offered great marketing sizzle and Match decided to build Chemistry.com, our answer to eHarmony. In fact, we were very motivated because eHarmony had just taken out the most profitable part of online dating, people that are willing to pay a premium for help finding a marriage partner. Basically, we knew it would boil down to “my PhD can beat up your PhD” and the best marketing company would win.
Online dating has experienced very little product innovation since the launch of eHarmony and PlentyOfFish, so major dating sites have competed with TV advertising, branding and marketing claims. If you say you offer “secret sauce” enough times on TV, a chunk consumers will believe it. But times have changed and so have consumers.
I want to thank Eli for shining a scientific-light on the misinformation shared by several major dating sites. The industry has an opportunity to innovate by moving away from their dependence on snake oil, scientific matching and their reliance on charging consumers to communicate and instead move rapidly to embrace the social networking, real identity and true interest matching.
At theComplete.me our goal is simple, we want to help consumers have a great first date and we believe that is all a website can strive to deliver. We do this by approaching “matching” differently, we allow consumers to import their interests from nine social networks and quickly find people who share their passions and interests. Our interest matching allows people to discover easy ice-breaking conversations and find common ground for their first date… the rest is up to them.
Back to Eli’s article… two of the major weaknesses with traditional dating sites: the over dependence on profile browsing and the overheated emphasis on “matching algorithms.” A series of studies spearheaded by our co-author Paul Eastwick has shown that people lack insight regarding which characteristics in a potential partner will inspire or undermine their attraction to him or her (see here, here, and here ). As such, singles think they’re making sensible decisions about who’s compatible with them when they’re browsing profiles, but they can’t get an accurate sense of their romantic compatibility until they’ve met the person face-to-face.
It is not difficult to convince people unfamiliar with the scientific literature that a given person will, all else equal, be happier in a long-term relationship with a partner who is similar rather than dissimilar to them in terms of personality and values. Nor is it difficult to convince such people that opposites attract in certain crucial ways.
The problem is that relationship scientists have been investigating links between similarity, “complementarity” (opposite qualities), and marital well-being for the better part of a century, and little evidence supports the view that either of these principles—at least when assessed by characteristics that can be measured in surveys—predicts marital well-being.
… relationship scientists have discovered a great deal about what makes some relationships more successful than others. For example, such scholars frequently videotape couples while the two partners discuss certain topics in their marriage, such as a recent conflict or important personal goals. Such scholars also frequently examine the impact of life circumstances, such as unemployment stress, infertility problems, a cancer diagnosis, or an attractive co-worker. Scientists can use such information about people’s interpersonal dynamics or their life circumstances to predict their long-term relationship well-being.
But algorithmic-matching sites exclude all such information from the algorithm because the only information those sites collect is based on individuals who have never encountered their potential partners (making it impossible to know how two possible partners interact) and who provide very little information relevant to their future life stresses (employment stability, drug abuse history, and the like).
This is great news for companies like theComplete.me that are moving away from subscription fees for online dating and instead embracing micro-transactions.
There was a little gem that we almost missed yesterday in Facebook’s amended IPO filing. But it looks like Facebook acknowledged that it may have to move away from a 30 percent revenue share with app developers if it expands Credits, its virtual currency, and payments beyond gaming.
If Facebook cuts its 30 percent revenue share for music or media apps, the choice will set it apart from other platforms. Right now, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google are all warring with each other to become predominant vendors of digital content on the web and on mobile.
So here’s a reminder of what everyone is doing: Apple does a flat 30 percent revenue share for iOS. Google does a 30 percent revenue share for Android, but a 5 percent revenue share for games on Google+. Amazon has an unusual arrangement where it controls app pricing and it either keeps 30 percent of what it sells the app for or 80 percent of what the developer intended to sell it for (whichever is lower).
As we look at how to best protect singles, has anyone stopped to question the business model of Match.com, JDate and eHarmony, which requires members to be 100% anonymous? Their sites are devoid of all the social checks and balances that help singles make good dating decisions in the real world, and fosters dishonesty, exaggeration and occasional criminal behaviors. While the rest of the Internet has opened up to a social experience with real identities, all the leading dating sites have shored up their second-skin, anonymous communities so they can continue to control the information singles get about each other—ultimately allowing their pay-to-communicate model to thrive.
We just launched http://www.theComplete.me, a social dating network that allows singles to maintain their anonymity while also choosing how and when to share their real identity as they curate a dating profile from the images, friends and interests they already share on 8 social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc.). We have introduced user-defined anonymity to online dating and our aim is to fundamentally change the dating industry and the business model.
We do not require anonymity like other dating sites today, instead we trust our members and empower them with privacy controls and a .Me Score to measure the authenticity of information provided. Members always control the privacy of their information, and decide what they want to share, when and with whom. People using the site can see the other dating sites our members are using, but talk to them at no cost, on theComplete.me. Because we have access to real social identities, we also screen out married people and stop them from joining our service.
For some, real identities may feel a little “funny” at first, if you’ve been used to dating on closed, anonymous sites like eHarmony or Match.com, but the Internet has changed a lot since online dating was introduced in 1995, and user-defined anonymity is one of its better changes.
Can you imagine an anonymous Facebook, Linkedin or Google+—oh wait, that was called MySpace and we all know what happened there.
Remember there can always be more love in the world.