An Analysis of the Top Dating Sites

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Here is another story from my draft folder. Back in February, PC World looked at the matching algorithms of attraction and the business models behind some of the more popular online dating sites.

Here are a few interesting statistics which emerged from their review of the industry as a whole:

  • For 2009 the dating industry is expected to top $1.049 billion and is likely to grow at a rate of 10 percent.
  • It is estimated with free dating sites, at least 10 percent of new accounts created each day are from scammers.
  • With paid dating sites, on average 10 percent of members pay for the service and stay for less than 3 months.
  • In November 2008, online dating traffic as a whole was over 22 million with males making up 52.4 percent of the total number of visits (females 47.6 percent).
  • Average time spent per visit to the top 10 online dating sites in 2008 was 22 minutes and 27 seconds.

A lot of the information mention in the article we have talked about before, so I will only discuss any new details. What we did learn, deals more about the hardware needed to run a busy dating site and the process of matching. For instance (WARNING tech talk coming), eHarmony has over 4 terabytes of information on more than 20 million registered members, each who have completed the 400 to 256 profile questions (eHarmony's profile has gotten shorter over the years). After a user signs up at eHarmony, a 10 Gig Oracle database is used to match you with initially, a few members. Apparently the real matching takes place later when your answers are matched up with thousands of other users who have answered hundreds of questions. The whole process takes almost 1 billion calculations and is done in a batch operation at the end of each day. This is a lot of calculations to find matches for a single user. It also tells me that while the initial database is probably filled with the most current users who are using eHarmony now, the matches which you may be more compatible with, will be given to you in a day or so from the much larger database. To give you an idea of the size difference between the two, the main database is about 400 times larger. eHarmony also says a members actions and outcomes on the site is stored and used to help determine matches. The example given deals with your geographical limit you set when you first filled out your profile. If you say, set it to 20 miles, but the eHarmony matching system sees you are viewing members who live farther away, then your location limit will be adjusted. This is because, eHarmony will assume location of a match isn't a deal breaker for you (so only click on those long distance matches only if you really want to travel).

PerfectMatch.com (which has 5 million members) has a lengthy profile as well when compared to most other dating sites, but it still only takes about half of the time to complete when compared to eHarmony's. For their dating site, Perfect Match uses 5 web servers and a number of SQL server database servers. A number of other servers are also used to handle messaging and marketing needs. According to the company, PerfectMatch.com's matches happen right away, there is little to no delay.

PlentyofFish.com is also mentioned and the article. According to the author, POF wants to keep things simple when it comes to the profile and searching. The thing is, POF does have a Chemistry test which for some reason is not mentioned. Plenty Of Fish also has been promoting this fact lately due to their new Serious Member paid membership. Serious Members must take the chemistry and personality test to qualify. Hardware wise, we learned that Plenty Of Fish uses 3 web servers, 5 messaging servers and 5 database servers. Their database of user information is 200 GB. For the year the total cost to operate is only a couple hundred thousand dollars with the majority of the money spent on bandwidth.

For information on some of the dating sites mentioned here, read our eHarmony review and our Perfect Match review.