OKCupid looks to me like a winner. I am unaffiliated with them in anyway, other than my profile exists on there somewhere.

I find it hard to formulate why my gut is screaming that OKCupid is going to work. I think it has the flickr appeal for one.

A little more…

First, and most importantly, it is free. The proportion of girls who will pay for a dating site and guys who will is way imbalanced. Something that facilitates dating is just more valuable for a guy because the responsibility is incumbent on the guy. Perhaps this logic is sexist, but it is the reality in most cultures. Guys know that they have to do the uncomfortable work of the approach. They are the ones being judged. Except for the minority that have some scarce value (such as model looks, wealth, or fame), men know the costs of dating, and most are psychological. Women do, too, but the psychological costs for them are not as centered around the beginning. So, they do not have the same concept of value associated with a system that facilitates the beginning of a dating relationship.

There are other skews to pay sites. The question of capability is tied to ego. Almost everyone is irrationally protective of their own ego. (As in, “Man, I should really be able to do this on my own. Why do I need a dating site? Am I that much of a loser?”) A guy joins a dating site because the ego ding of doing so is less than the potential return (because of their acute knowledge of the psychological costs above). I’ll go out on a limb and say most guys can get over this hurdle. Those that don’t, don’t need to. Girls, on the other hand, less frequently get over the ego ding. Those that do have more motivation to do so. The following is stereotypical, but the economic forces at play suggest strongly that those that are motivated to get over this ego ding do because they are less attractive in some way than those that don’t. The ego factor is stronger with girls in this area. First, they may “trial.” But then, the ego hurdles of signing up, then paying, then using the site, then meeting someone, are all additional hurdles, each one of which may prove too high to get over. Since just being a little flirtier probably can have the same result, the ego hurdles just don’t make sense.

A free site doesn’t have this problem. With a free site, the trial is effectively everything except actually meeting someone. Can’t do much about that hurdle!

The question is, does being free introduce other problems? Hmm, let’s see. Common “bad things” with dating sites are:

Guys that flood girls with emails
Guys being unpleasant in some way
Selectivity biases more attractive people (and lots of correllary problems)
The attempted communication versus actual date ratio is weak

I’m sure there are others, but the point of my brainstorm is to say that none of these problems get worse by making a dating site free, and may in fact improve. For example, the first point is probably helped by making the site free. Why? If a guy pays for a dating site, he is going to be compelled to use it. A lot. Too much. Mass mail! Why? Because he just absorbed an ego ding by paying for a dating site. He wants results! This is Newton at work here. Action causing equal and opposite reaction. This is throttled down on a free site.

What about other problems?

Exclusivity is lost. It’s open.

Is this a problem? Exclusivity is an illusion, anyway. Again, for the guys, there is competition no matter what because of the well known ratio problem. The illusion that “now that I’m paying for this, my job is easier” does not jive with reality. In a free environment, this becomes obvious. (By the way, I think small features in the site that suggest this reality would be a good thing. For example, if a guy sends a girl an email, why not say, “This girl just received her 50th email of the day.”)

What’s the point of a free dating site? Myspace has millions of singles.

In the early days, Myspace did have lots of dating interaction. This went down as interacting with strangers just became very secondary to the primary use of Myspace as a social network for existing friends. Online communities are kind of singular in purpose. Myspace is a place for friends. I think the social networks will still be places for dating, too, but that will always be secondary. I think the biggest reason why a free site specific to dating is better is that dating is, in fact, time sensitive and purpose specific. The approach is time sensitive. What makes the approach less psychologically costly is knowing the other person is interested in dating (purpose), right now (time). Myspace users are not always interested in dating someone new. An OKCupid user that visited the site yesterday, is much more likely to be interested in dating someone new. I realize this is subtle, but it’s the bulls eye.


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