How Specific Can Online Dating Sites Get?

Jacob Harper  |

Even in their heyday newspaper “personals” existed on the fringe of acceptability, long the perceived domain of the lonely, desperate Edna Krabappels of the world. But as personals moved online, something changed.  

Since the founding of, largely regarded as the internet’s first dating site, in 1995, in the 19 years since the online dating industry has become both socially acceptable while exploding in popularity. But unlike other subgenres of the tech industry, like social media and search, online dating has never come to be dominated by a single company. Internet dating lacks its own Facebook Inc. (FB) or Google Inc. (GOOG) , and is controlled by an ever-increasing array of independent companies.

Companies like IAC Interactive (IACI) do have a somewhat sizable share of the market, with their popular sites and OkCupid. But dating on the internet has largely resisted homogeneity, with hundreds of specialized sites and apps appearing every year.

The trend certainly indicates a continued fracturing of the industry into more and more specific subgenres. But a few interesting ones have emerged:


For: “Sugarbabies” looking for their long-lost sugar-parents

This dating site prides itself on its honesty, assuming that successful relationships are built on being clear from the start what the arrangement is – be it “love, companionship, friendship, a financial assist, short-term, long-term.” On the site, the word “arrangement” is consistently used in place of “relationship,” reinforcing the notion that there is a… shall we say financial expectation involved in the meetings conducted via this dating site.


For: People who have a strong opinion on Yo La Tengo’s new album

While movies like High Fidelity might argue that looking for a mate based solely on shared musical preferences is ultimately as frustrating an exercise as trying to defend Metal Machine Music, the music-aficionado dating site Tastebuds begs to differ. The site merely asks you to pick three artists or bands, and then starts matching you up. The success rate of such a simple algorithm might seem limited, but look at it this way: matches will certainly have one thing to talk about. Maybe even three.  


For: People who don’t have time to finish reading this sentence

The fact is while online dating ostensibly makes dating easier, it still takes a lot of time. Making a suitably charming profile, finding good pictures, composing messages – digital dating is a grind. Lovestruck seeks to minimize the effort required to find people online by catering to busy professionals. Matches are selected based on physical proximity, and Lovestruck regularly organizes events to speed up the process. After all, busy people can’t spend all their time reading a synopsis of a dating site!

Personal Dating Agent

For: People Who Think Lovestruck users have too much time

Who the hell are all these people with time to write messages? And set up dates? Personal dating Agent is for people who like to have their people call your people. The “agents” match people up and tend to all the messy details. All the clients have to do is show up.  It’s not a cheap site, with personalized options and paid profile critiques bringing a potential account setup into the hundreds of dollars range. But Personal Dating Agent goes quite a bit further with its service than the larger, computer-algorithm engineered dating sites.      


For: Millenials who want looking for love to feel like a video game

The fastest-growing dating app is fairly new, having launched in May 2013. But while the app is new, the idea is old, at least in the world of tech. Tinder is somewhat inspired in concept by Facebook CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg’s first site, Facemash, which would post two pictures side by side and have users pick which one they found more attractive. In Tinder, a user is presented with a picture and either gives the thumbs up or thumbs down. If two people “pick” each other, they are allowed to message one another. A superficial system, to be sure – the app is routinely called a “hookup” app, implying its more for casual sex than dating. But regardless of intention, it’s tapping into something, and with 50 million downloads has quickly become one of the hottest dating services in tech.    

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