Match CEO Reveals How Love Is Predicted Online

Match.com
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If anyone knows how online love works, it's Sam Yagan. Not only is Yagan the co-founder of OkCupid, he also runs all of Match Inc for IAC. Put it all together and Yagan is pretty much the most powerful man in the online dating biz.

Love is confusing at the best of times. Factor in online dating algorithms, which are so inscrutable that they might as well be matching prospective lovers with some kind of ancient magic, and the mystery of love gets even deeper. I know, at least once, you've wondered: How does it all work?

Business Insider asked Sam Yagan to shed some light on the inner workings of an online dating site. First, he noted, every dating site matches a little bit differently. That's why it's great for a company like IAC to have so many dating companies in its portfolio, and that's why it might be a good idea for you to be on more than one dating site. Each site opens you to a different world of romantic possibilities.

In spite of those differences, there's one thing every dating site has in common: the goal is to find you a good first date. After that, it's up to you and chemistry to take the relationship further.

Online dating sites start by filtering out incompatible partners based on characteristics that Yagan calls "hard filters." Age and location are the primary hard filters, followed by dealbreakers like smoking habits and children. Only when hard filters overlap does a dating site's algorithm take over to analyze other factors, like interests and hobbies.

Billions of data points are calculated to find potential matches for a user. Some are explicitly entered by the user, like religion and favorite pastimes. Others - and arguably the more important ones - are determined implicitly. Every dating site tracks the activity of its users to determine what they really want in a partner.

Yagan says that one of the great surprises of working in the online dating industry was the realization that people don't always know what's important to them. He offers politics as an example - though some politically passionate online daters say they could never date someone with opposing political views, Yagan finds that that's frequently not the case in practice. People are often wrong about themselves.

For that reason, it's imperative that online dating sites keep careful watch over users' activity. What profiles are you really clicking on? Who do you send messages to? Where do you spend the most time on the site?

By analyzing your behavior, a dating site develops a more accurate picture of the date you really want to meet. And because online dating brings together people who would never have met in the real world, it offers greater odds of finding that perfect partner.

For more information, you can read our review of the dating site Match.com