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Trends in China Could Drive Dating App Technology

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Jiayuan now allows users to livestream.
Jiayuan now allows users to livestream.

In technology-forward China, single people are looking to new ways of connecting with each other via dating apps beyond the traditional swipe. Now, online dating companies in China are experimenting with livestream, and soon U.S. companies could follow.

Gizmodo reported on the trend of Chinese dating apps integrating livestream features into their platforms. Jiayuan, China’s largest dating app, launched its new livestream feature this past January with an interesting twist. Instead of two users opting to chat with each other over the app in private (like with Facetime), a user can set up a chat topic and see if someone wants to join. Once one person accepts and the two start a chat, it becomes a broadcast where other users can watch and comment.

China Issues Stricter Guidelines For Dating Websites Following Entrepreneur’s Suicide

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Online Dating Guidelines in China

On September 7, Su Xiangmao, the 37-year-old multi-millionaire entrepreneur behind a Skype-like app called WePhone, jumped to his death from the 15th floor of his Beijing apartment building. He left digital suicide notes on Google Plus and Sina Weibo, as well as a disturbing welcoming message on WePhone: "Company owner is forced to death by his evil wife Zhai Xinxin, and the app will stop working." The message included Zhai's phone number and her national ID information.

Su’s notes told a tragic tale of marriage gone wrong. He met his 29-year-old ex-wife in March on Jiayuan.com, China’s largest online dating website, where both were VIP members with "verified" personal profiles. In the months that followed, Su spent 13 million yuan ($1.96 million) on Zhai, showering her with gifts like a Tesla Model X and a seaside apartment in South China's Hainan Province. They married in June.

One month later, they divorced. Su agreed to pay Zhai 10 million yuan as part of their settlement. If he failed to do so, he wrote, Zhai threatened to report his business, which operated in a legal grey area, and his tax evasion to police.

China's Online Dating Scams Put Everyone Else's To Shame

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Every week, someone's in the news with a cautionary tale of online love gone wrong. Online dating critics are quick to point out the threat of scammers, but how big is the risk really?

Apparently a lot bigger if you live in China. A new study of the largest online dating site in China discovered hundreds of thousands of con artists, and their scams are far more intricate than simply lying about their age or adding an inch to their height.

The study, “Quit Playing Games With My Heart: Understanding Online Dating Scams”, is a collaboration between University College London and Jiayuan. Together they analyzed more than 500,000 profiles, drawn from Jiayuan’s 100 million users, which had been flagged as scam accounts.

The most popular scam – fake profiles promoting escort services – will be familiar to users of any dating service in any country. What's really interesting are the more intricate, culturally specific cons.

Take “the flower basket.” In this scam, lonely middle-aged women are targeted by “attracive mid-age men” who contact them and develop an entirely digital romantic relationship. Once a solid connection has been established, the man will imply that he wants to get married, but that his parents require a gesture of goodwill.

He'll then explain that the gesture is an expensive flower basket that can cost as much as $20,000. The man will refer his target to a florist he has teamed up with, who gives him a cut of the money after the purchase is made.

In another surprisingly ingenious scam, a female fraudster is hired by the owner of an expensive restaurant. She joins a dating site and asks a target to take her to the restaurant she's affiliated with. She'll run up an enormous tab (anywhere from $100 to $2,000) during the date, then disappear, never to be heard from again.

“The success rate of this type of scam is much higher [than traditional online scams],” write the researchers, “because the scammer leverages the desire of the victim to meet an attractive woman. In addition, it is likely that the victim will never realise that he has been scammed, since the date really happened, and the victim possibly had a good time.”

It’s also, according to the study, not strictly illegal, so the con artists involved don’t put themselves at much of a risk. That's some seriously next-level scamming.

Just be glad these shakedowns haven't made their way abroad yet. Or have they? Be on the lookout for pricey flower arrangements.

China Shuts Down Over 120 Dating Websites For Violations

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Dating in China just got a whole lot harder. The country's internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, has closed down 128 online dating sites suspected of violating regulations and supplying false information.

The websites were shut down for a lengthy list of allegations, including organized prostitution, disseminating pornographic images, promoting vulgar content, allowing user information to be distributed illegally, and not having complete sets of registration records.

This crackdown comes after the CAC joined forces with several government agencies – including the Ministry of Public Security, the All-China Women's Federation, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs – to conduct a clean-up operation. The offensive began in February, driven primarily by tips from the public. Users are still encouraged to report illegal websites through hotlines, e-mail or mobile apps.

"The operation has achieved a good result. It acted as a deterrent to violators and also had positive impact on the industry's development," said the CAC in a statement. With the way paved, the plan is to create guidelines to ensure dating sites provide fair and honest service.

Other dating services have expressed support, saying the new policies will be good for the industry's long-term development. Wu Linguang, CEO of leading Chinese dating site Jiayuan.com, has come out in favor. The CEOs of Baihe.com and Youyuan.com have also both expressed support for the campaign.

Aside from targeting prostitution and fraudulent practices by service providers, the CAC's crusade tackled the issue of authenticity. Some services were accused of failing to enforce controversial 2012 regulations requiring users to give their real names and national identification numbers upon registration. These sites have been asked to enforce real-name registration to protect users against dishonesty and scammers.

Some believe these are advantageous moves that will help maintain a fair and competitive online market, and improve legal consciousness. Others are less convinced by the ostensible motives.

Chinese internet users have poked fun at the crackdown and questioned its intentions. Critics claim campaigns purporting to safeguard moral standards and related laws are merely a pretext for political censorship.

This is not the first time China has made such a bold move. Last year, in a similar effort to stamp out prostitution and pornography, the country closed nearly 1.8 million social networking and instant messaging accounts.

Not the first time, and likely not the last.

Two Milestones For Jiayuan.com

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Jiayuan.com, the largest online dating site in China, surpassed the 110 million registered users mark on June 29, 2014.

Jiayuan got its start a decade ago to address the unique needs of China's rapidly growing urban singles population. The website was a pioneer in China's online dating market, and now ranks first in the country in terms of number of unique visitors, average time spent on the site per user, and average page views per user. Over the course of its 10-year history, Jiayuan has facilitated 12.3 million matches in China.

The site has become so big that, according to comScore, it accounted for more than half – 58.4% to be exact – of the total time spent on online dating in China in March 2014. It is the 60th most visited website in the country according to Alexa.com, and the 336th most popular website in the world.

Jiayuan.com hit the 100 million registered user accounts milestone back in January 2014, adding 10 million more users over the course of the last six months. "I am pleased to see Jiayuan's registered user accounts surpass the 110 million mark as we continue to gain momentum from our solid start to the year," commented Mr. Linguang Wu, CEO of Jiayuan, in a press release. "Passing the 110 million milestone speaks to the strength and growing popularity of our platform as we make the investments needed to increase our brand equity and solidify our leadership over our competitors. These investments include ramping up mobile monetization now that we have successfully grown our mobile platform to include 24.8 million registered user accounts and 31.2 million activated installments as of June 29, 2014."

One of Jiayuan’s recent investments is a partnership with animation firm Up Studios, whose brand Piggy in Love (which follows a pig looking for his lost love) will be featured in Jiayuan’s new mobile app. Through their licensing agreement, Jiayuan users will be able to send romantic animations and Piggy in Love emojis in their messages.

Mr. Wu concluded, "Looking to the future, we will continue to build upon this massive database of marriage minded singles by integrating it with our proprietary CRM system in an effort to consolidate the traditional matchmaking business in China which we believe is poised for a period of explosive growth. 2014 is an important year for us strategically as we make investments in our database of eligible singles to generate new revenue streams and ensure the long-term sustainability of our business."

Jiayuan.com Now Has 90 Million Members

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China's largest dating site, Jiayuan.com, announced last week that they had reached 90 million members around 7pm on July 7, 2013. It took them only 6 months to signup 10 million more members (in January of 2013 they had 80 million members).

Jiayuan.com is also the only Chinese dating site company that is trading on the NASDAQ. Their IPO happened on May, 2011 and the company has since doubled in worth.

For more information on this milestone of Jiayuan you can check out the press release.
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