SeekingArrangement Was China’s Hottest, Then Most Hated, Dating App In Just A Few Days

Seeking Arrangement
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Forget Ziggy Stardust. The award for ‘Most Exciting Rise And Fall’ this week goes to SeekingArrangement, the notorious sugar daddy dating website founded by Brandon Wade in 2006.

The US-based service suddenly soared to the top of the popularity charts in China’s iOS App Store, moving up 765 places on May 22 to take the number one spot for free social networking apps. Though SeekingArrangement has been in China since 2015, this marked the first time it topped the App Store rankings in the country. By comparison, according to Quartz, it ranks only 63rd on the same chart in the United States.

It is unclear what caused SeekingArrangement’s unexpected ascent to the throne. The company connects users -- usually an older, wealthier man and a young, attractive woman -- for what it politely calls “mutually beneficial relationships” or “compensated dating”. Considering the notoriously conservative culture in China, as well as the government’s recent crackdown on violent and sexually suggestive content on dating sites, the app’s download boom is all the more mystifying.

It didn’t go unnoticed. The Chinese version of the service rebranded sugar daddies/mommas as “successful people” and sugar babies as “charming sweethearts” in attempt to sneak under the radar of Chinese authorities, but shortly after reaching number one in the App Store, it found itself under attack.

“Emergency exposure! This notorious ‘compensated dating’ website from the West has landed in China!” wrote the Global Times, a state tabloid, as translated by Quartz. “China rejects such an overseas company that ‘objectifies women’ and challenges public orders and morals of the society!” it said.

SeekingArrangement’s official account was suspended on the popular social networking app WeChat for illegal operations. Yufa Information Technology, the Shanghai-based firm in charge of the account and of SeekingArrangements’s China business, was also added to the country’s official list of “abnormal businesses.”

A spokesperson for Seeking Arrangements shared the following statement with Gizmodo:

“SeekingArrangement.com is strictly a dating platform, not a ‘pay as you go’ website as alleged in recent news articles. These accusations are concerning and not in any way an accurate portrayal of the site or its members... We have dedicated an entire team to keeping escorts, prostitutes, attempted underage users, and others who violate our terms of service and code of conduct off our social network....

SeekingArrangement was founded based on a principal deeply rooted in Chinese culture, that women seek out men who can provide for the family. This was reiterated to our founder and CEO by his Chinese mother, who assured him that if he worked hard to achieve success in his career, he would also enjoy success in his romantic life.”

SeekingArrangement’s Chinese-language website has added a disclaimer: “despite misleading partial media reports, the SA Chinese version .... is a high quality space for high quality people.”

SeekingArrangment is now in the company of many popular foreign dating and social networking apps, including Tinder, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, that have been banned in China. For more information on this dating service you can read our review of Seeking Arrangment