I remember when the Internet was in its’ adolescence and online dating was virtually unheard of. As the Internet began to gain popularity, its use as a matchmaking tool gained some momentum, but was still considered very taboo in most circles. Over the years, online dating has not only gained wide popularity, but also has been accepted as a legitimate and sometime successful alternative to the singles’ bar. According to USA Today, online dating is “the most significant shift in American dating culture since the mid-1960s” (USA Today). I think that online dating owes much of its success to the dating site pioneer, Match.com. Because of Match.com, online dating is not as taboo as once thought only several years ago. I’m especially interested because my husband’s mother met her current husband via the internet. They are very happy and don’t hesitate to let others know where they met.
Surprisingly, roughly 44 percent of Americans believe that singles have a better chance of meeting someone via online dating than in a more traditional setting, such as a singles bar, found an Ipsos-Reid study. (Orr, 18) Once upon a time, online dating was limited to newsgroups. Hard to believe! Then, Match.com came about in 1995. At its’ inception, users had a headline, physical statistics, location, a few introductory lines, and sometimes a photograph. These days, profiles are more extensive and individuals can purchase full background checks on potential mates for a nominal fee. (Interestingly enough, as the internet has evolved; background checks can also be purchased for potential mates met in the more traditional methods (i.e. the singles bar)). Video profiles offer people ways to not only “talk” to each other, but also to “see” them. The relatively new phenomenon, blogging, allows these potential mates access to each other’s personal thoughts and ideas. Now, one can find a mate through their cell phone or via their telephone.
Before there were internet dating sites, there was only one way to meet other singles on the internet and that was via newsgroups. One of the first newsgroups was called soc.singles. What is now known as Google News, back then Netnews, was the equivalent of the first online dating site. (Online Singles Party) There were no photographs or profiles. These were forums where people gathered to exchange their ideas on any topic imaginable. A few years later, a new newsgroup came about, alt.romance. I guess it was inevitable that eventually something romantic would evolve. Just as in real life, when you get two single people together who have much (or maybe NOT much) in common, an attraction develops (more often than not). Alt.romance was not the only romantic newsgroup, others could be found on just about any social cultural group, i.e. soc.culture.american.
There used to be only a few sites which served to unite singles. The first and biggest was Match.com. Match.com is a publicly held business of IAC/InterActiveCorp. Before being absorbed by IAC, Match.com was a wholly owned subsidiary of Ticketmaster and part of USA Networks Interactive Group. It was launched April 21, 1995. (Online Dating Magazine) As of 2005, there were over 15 million registered users with over one million of those paying subscribers in over 246 countries. Match.com has over thirty dating sites in 18 languages. During its’ first year in operation, Match.com registered 60,000 members. These days, Match.com is visited by 60,000 people EACH DAY. (Online Dating Magazine)
Match.com works like this; a user registered by creating a handle and password. They supplied their age, location, physical statistics (such as height, weight, hair color, etc.) and a photograph (optional). They then are able to go a step further by answering questionnaires geared towards their likes and dislikes on such subjects as music, movies, and lifestyles. Finally, they express what they like and dislike in potential mates. Users are even able to leave a personal message on their profile about who they were and what they were looking for. Registered users are able to search or browse for members using different parameters such as age, hair color, location, and so on. Eventually, Match.com added a function to its’ service which matched singles on different areas of compatibility (based on what that user specified). They refer to this as their Total Attraction Matching. These matches would be delivered to the user’s inbox each day, week, or month.
Admittedly, the site was a bit bare-bone in the beginning. But at the time, the realm of online dating was limited and largely unknown. It was still socially awkward and viewed by many as taboo. Match.com began making upgrades to the site in 2001. In June of that year, it underwent a major site redesign that improved its’ advanced search, Search, Match, and Profile feature areas. (Online Dating Magazine) More specifically, it added a better, more integrated, search which allowed users more parameters to search for potential partners. No longer were users limited to searching by age, sex, location, and “basics”. A user could now search for someone who dislikes the color green and Thai food.
But this was only the beginning! In mid-2002, Match.com launched MatchLive.com, which provided New York City singles with a network of social parties and events where they could interact. (Orr, Introduction) The year 2002 also saw the introduction of the Match.com messenger, which allowed users to interact via instant messenger in real-time while they were on the site. Up until this point, users could only communicate via the site’s e-mail.
2003 was a big year for Match.com. Until now, users were limited to instant messages or site e-mail to communicate. Also, while innovative in bringing online dating offline (via MatchLive.com), it was limited to just one geographical area. Late 2003, Match.com introduced SpeedMatching.com. This site offered SpeedMatching events for singles across the United States and in London. (Online Dating Magazine) It was at this point that Match.com tried to distinguish itself from other dating services by offering a less-romantic “friend”-based connection on the site.
If 2003 was a big year for Match.com, 2004 was even bigger! At the beginning of 2004, Match.com launched Online SpeedMatching. (Online Dating Magazine) This was a totally new concept in the online dating world. The Online SpeedMatching integrated the telephone and the internet to offer users “mini-dates” that were held via the telephone. It’s the equivalent of offline Speed Dating. Users could decide whether to disconnect and reconnect with a new partner if it was a “bad” date or they could extend the five-minutes they were given to continue a “good” date.
In April of 2004, Match.com began offering a video-enabled instant messenger. (Online Dating Magazine) Users could interact via webcam while sending and receiving text messages. This so far was the closest thing to an “offline” date that online dating had seen. Users were able to interact real-time both by audio and video. At this time, Match.com partnered with Glamour Shots to offer discounts to users who wished to have makeovers or who wished to have their video profiles professionally done.
Also, in 2004, Match.com partnered with Cingular to offer MatchMobile.com, a wireless dating service. This opened Match.com’s services to over 24 million Cingular subscribers. (Online Dating Magazine) Several months later, Match.com expanded its operation to allow MatchMobile.com users to post and view photo and video profiles.
I believe that for the time being, Match.com has reached its’ limits when it comes to being able to offer the “next-best innovation” in online dating. Already, it offers a person not only the ability to meet someone via the internet, but also, they can type to them, listen to their voice, speak to them, watch their video, and search for others via their cell phone. With the introduction of Dr. Phil and his MindFindBind advice this past year, I believe that Match.com realizes they have offered every avenue to their subscribers to meet someone. Now, they are just working on improving the person. Haha.
Interestingly enough, while I writing this, I received a pop-up in my internet browser. It was an advertisement from (I am not kidding) Match.com introducing their new compatibility service, Chemistry. Chemistry is their new exclusive compatibility site that only matches you with other singles that are “highly compatible” with you, according to the answers you supply to their questionnaires. (An example question was given, which asked you to interpret several doodles.) I guess Match.com realized that eHarmony was on to something. This leads me to…..
eHarmony.com. eHarmony.com doesn’t rely on all the technological “bells-and-whistles” to match their members. Their approach to matching singles is based on total chemistry based on over twenty-seven areas of compatibility. (according to their commercial). Founded in 2000, eHarmony is a privately owned service started by Dr. Neil Clark Warren. eHarmony.com has produced over 33,000 marriages as of August 2005, according to a Harris interactive study. eHarmony’s users fill out extensive questionnaires and eHarmony does the matching. In May of 2004, eHarmony was granted U.S. Patent No. 6, 735, 568 for its’ Compatibility Matching System, a method that predicts long-term compatibility between two people based on research from studies of over 5,000 married couples. In a move that showed how online dating was branching beyond its’ online boundaries, eHarmony and Gannett Co., Inc. partnered in late 2004 to offer personals for USA Today and all Gannett daily newspapers. (Online Dating Magazine)
I didn’t realize how many people used the internet to find a mate. I also didn’t realize how many successful partnerships came about because of the internet. It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of Match.com and other sites like it. I don’t think many people thought of online dating as being a legitimate means of meeting someone when the idea first came about. I know that I was a skeptic and my mom still thinks it’s ridiculous. I have friends that have met their soul mate via the internet and I have friends that tease these other friends mercilessly because of it.
After seeing all that Match.com has accomplished in its 10 year lifespan, I believe that Match.com is one of the forces that have helped online dating gain credibility. I think that part of the reason that online dating, via Match.com, has become a more accepted way to meet someone is the fact that Match.com is so accessible and has partnered itself with many other reputable companies and websites. For instance, BET.com, InfoSpace.com, Cingular, Dr. Phil, MSN, and even the Dallas Mavericks are only a few of Match.com’s partners. All of these companies/brands have teamed up with Match.com to offer dating services, romance channels, and advice.
I also think that eHarmony has done a lot in the way of giving online dating better repute. I’m not exploring eHarmony further because it would take take several more pages. I only brought it up to show that there are other, totally different dating sites out there. As a matter of fact, there are over 800 dating sites currently on the internet, according to Orr. (Introduction) There are dating sites for men to meet women, men to meet men, men to meet groups of women, Jewish women to meet Jewish men or for women to meet a doctor or a millionaire.
Until now, I didn’t realize that Match.com had launched itself outside of the internet. It has transcended the notion of online dating. Now, it certainly seems as though “online” is somewhere people can go on a date, very much like you would go to a coffee house. Match.com is available in different mediums. It’s accessible via telephone and cellular phone. There are Match.com personals in some newspapers (as are eHarmony personals) and magazines. This assignment made me realize that online dating isn’t just online anymore. When it comes to Match.com, at least, online dating is everywhere.