Technology

Will Facebook Graph Search Finally Make Online Dating Cool?

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That's the question posed by Cliff Lerner, founder and CEO of SNAP Interactive, in a recent article on HuffPost.

Personally I like to think we've already decided that online dating is cool, but maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better. Maybe the rest of the world isn't as on-board with the idea as the social and professional circles I run in. For those people, Lerner says, the launch of Graph Search could make all the difference.

When Graph Search was announced, online dating sites went a little bit insane. Some feared that because it could meaningfully connect singles through friends and common interests, it would mean the end of traditional dating sites. It even includes the option to search by "relationship status," making it clear that dating is a key element of the new feature.

"The concern," Lerner explains, "is that singles will gravitate more and more towards Facebook for their online dating needs since Facebook already has superior data and profiles and now is offering enhanced friend and interest-based search and matching functionality for singles."

But fear not, online dating sites, because Lerner also says that line of thinking "couldn't be more wrong."

Facebook's Graph Search could be a valuable opportunity for dating sites. Currently only 1 in 5 singles visit a dating site each month, and the biggest opportunity dating sites have for growth is to crush the stigma associated with them once and for all. The best way to get that remaining 80% of singles to log onto online dating sites is to make it seem as normal as possible.

Enter Graph Search, which subtly blends online dating functionality into the Facebook experience. With the addition of "social dating" to Facebook, a brand new crop of singles is being introduced to online dating in an understated, but effective, way. And once they get a taste of what it has to offer, there's a good chance they'll turn to online dating sites to get more out of the experience.

Voila - Facebook Graph Search might actually be doing the online dating industry a favor, not driving a nail into its figurative coffin.

"It's only a matter of time before the online dating industry says a huge "thank you" to Facebook for removing the online dating 'stigma,'" writes Lerner, "and thus enabling millions of more singles to enter the 'online dating' market, which will ultimately expose many new millions of singles to destination dating sites."

Using Mobile Technology To Your Advantage

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Are you overwhelmed with all of the dating apps out there? It seems there are new ways of meeting people via technology cropping up every day. So what do you do with all the choices, especially if you're not so interested in playing a game of "hot or not" over an app like Tinder?

There's no need to worry. Technology can be used to your advantage, to help you meet more people than you'd otherwise run into going out to bars or parties. And don't forget - texting and social media can also help you improve your dating game.

Following are some ways to use technology to improve your social life:

Keep in touch via text. Did you meet someone incredible, or have an amazing first date? Don't let that spark fade - your mobile phone could be your best resource for keeping the romance going. Don't be afraid to send a text - but don't be generic by asking "how's your day?" Be creative. Make a reference to something you both said or did. Or send a photo of a place you talked about. This helps keep the conversation going, and provides a way to connect until the next time you see each other.

Check in on FourSquare, Yelp, or Facebook. In addition to getting deals from the restaurant or bar where you check in, you'll also let potential dates in your circles know where you like to hang out on weekends and evenings. Maybe you have the same places in common but didn't know it.

Use your online dating site's app. Signed up for Match.com or eHarmony? If you like these tried and true online dating sites, then download their apps, too. Because we are more mobile and carry our phones with us, daters can miss out on opportunities when they wait to check online matches at home or work. If you're staying engaged with matches through your phone, likely those opportunities for spontaneous coffee dates won't elude you. You never know.

Know what you're comfortable with, (and learn about what's out there). Apps like Grindr and Tinder can be daunting, especially if you're a single woman who doesn't want to be so accessible to strangers. But there are plenty of other dating apps that are more security-friendly. It's hard to fake a profile if you have to sign up with your Facebook account or verify with your mobile number. Apps like CoffeeMeetsBagel only provide one match per day, so you can rest assured people won't be trolling. Be open to learning what's out there and trying something new.

The New Rules of Digital Dating

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Remember the three-day rule? Well, you can forget about waiting to make that call and a lot of other advice that might have worked in the dating scene ten years ago.

Now in the age of GPS-based apps like Tinder that can hook you up with someone instantly, and the way we communicate primarily via text rather than phone calls, this kind of advice falls short. Now that we have instant access (and therefore expect more immediate gratification), we don't have the time or patience to sit around and wait. After all, there could be five other hot men (or women) to meet in the meantime.

So how do you navigate the new digital dating world with so much access to new people - whether it's online dating, mobile dating, or meeting through Facebook? What are some guidelines to help figure out when to contact someone and how?

Following are some new tips to get you started:

Get familiar with technology. If you're new to the dating scene then it's important not to dismiss technology when it comes to helping you find someone. Online dating is extremely popular, with thousands of singles joining various websites every day. Mobile dating also offers a lot of different options - from apps that connect you to friends of friends on Facebook to those that tell you who is single and within a five-mile radius of where you happen to be in the moment. See what's out there. Don't assume that it's not for you until you try it.

Communicate. Instead of playing coy and waiting around for someone else to make a move, it's good to communicate with him so he knows you're interested. Dating moves very quickly, so if you drop in and out of communication with someone or wait a day or more to answer a text, you could miss out on opportunities. Be consistent - respond in a timely way to texts and emails, and check in with your online dating site often.

Be honest. If you are serious about finding a relationship, then it's important to be honest about who you are. It's easy to pretend to be someone else online and paste old photos on your dating profile or fudge your age or height. But when you start meeting people to date, you're going to have to explain yourself. Be true to who you are, that is the best way to connect to someone else.

Be bold. Good relationships don't just magically happen. They require risk - we have to put ourselves out there, to be willing to show who we are to someone else. If you go solo to that party, or talk to the stranger in front of you in the Starbucks line, or get up the nerve to message that guy you've been eyeing on your online dating site, you are making the effort. These are all small steps, but can lead to something great. Take more risks by putting yourself out there. Love is worth it.

Plenty of Fish Mobile Dating Riding High

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According to Comscore tracking for November 2012 Plenty of Fish mobile visitors accounted for 50 percent of all mobile dating traffic. POF mobile visitors “Average Minutes per Visitor” is also a lot higher than other dating sites Comscore tracks. This means they make up 67.5 percent of the time ALL mobile visitors used when visiting dating sites. I believe the Comscore data of mobile traffic includes web browsing and dating apps for smartphones.

POF also reports that every day their members exchange up to 30 million messages. In the past year to help fix the technology problems this causes all servers (web and database) have been replaced along with their networking equipment to keep up with the demand. To help with their matching and Chemistry Predictor POF will also be building soon a monster CUDA cluster which will have 147,0000 GPU cores. Wow!

To find out more about these statistics you can read the Plenty of fish blog. Hmmm... Markus Frind's blog use to be called the Paradigm Shift ... I wonder when the name changed? You can also find out more about the dating service here and how it works and stacks up against other services.

OkCupid Is Home To Millions Of Singles, But Little Security

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Heads up, Internet privacy advocates: a new report released in June warns the 7+ million members of OkCupid that the site is "a privacy heartbreak waiting to happen."

Since being acquired by Match.com last year, OkCupid's service terms allow the site to share user data with more than 50 websites owned by Match's parent company, IAC/InterActive Corp., and with IAC partners. The site may even archive data after users have closed their accounts or deleted information from their profiles.

Sarah Downey gives a detailed rundown of OkCupid's privacy weaknesses in the report:

  • OkCupid does not support HTTPS, a standard web encryption that ensures secure browsing by sending and receiving information in an encrypted form. Without HTTPS, information appears as plain text. With HTTPS, information looks like random characters. The lack of HTTPS on OkCupid means that anyone on your wireless network could potentially read things like emails, profile info, and the answers to your hidden questions on the site.
  • OkCupid uses nine different tracking companies and ad networks to obtain information about its visitors. None are part of OkCupid - all are independent third parties mining user data, like pages visited and time spent viewing a specific profile. The FTC requires dating sites to inform members about how their data will be used, but that information is often hidden deep within confusing terms of use or privacy policies.
  • OkCupid can keep your data forever. The site's privacy policy states that it collects OkCupid users' "personal interests, gender, age, education, occupation and certain relationship preferences. . . name, email and photo," along with their browser and IP address. It also says that OkCupid "may keep such information archived indefinitely." But on the bright side, you can email OkCupid at privacy@okcupid.com to request that your information not be shared with others.
  • Match's takeover of OkCupid means even more data sharing. Match's parent company owns sites like CitySearch.com, CollegeHumor.com, and Vimeo.com, and IAC's privacy policy allows it to share information freely between the companies it owns. "In other words," Downey writes, "your OkCupid data can be shared freely among the 6th largest online network in the world. Not very private."

So what can you do to protect your data online? "Think twice before posting any content on OkCupid or any other dating website," Downey says. "Even if you delete it later, it may be archived permanently." Use a browser add-on to block trackers and ad networks. Use an alias and an anonymous email addresses. And only provide information that is absolutely necessary - if it's optional, don't fill it in.

For more information on this dating site you can check out our OkCupid review.

How Match.com Makes A Match

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Match.com launched in 1995, and the site's popularity is still on the rise. In the highly competitive world of online dating, Match.com consistently ranks highly in dater's minds, and for good reason: their trailblazing technology makes them a cut above the rest.

Codenamed "Synapse," Match's algorithm evaluates a diverse range of factors in order to match compatible singles. David Gelles recently took a look backstage at Match.com for FT Magazine, guided by Mandy Ginsberg, president of Match.com US, and Amarnath Thombre, a key engineer for the company, to discover exactly what makes the Match algorithm so special.

Ginsberg had personal experience with the trials and tribulations of online dating before joining the Match team. After divorcing her spouse shortly after leaving college, she joined JDate but had no luck finding a partner. Love later found her in the form of a co-worker from India, who won her heart despite being vastly different from the man she thought she wanted to marry.

"If I had laid out a criteria for what I was looking for, it would not have been a guy from south India," she told Gelles. "People are complex. You're constantly making trade-offs about who's too tall, too short, too smart and too dumb. People come in and tell us a bit about what they're looking for. But what you say and what you do can be different."

With that idea in mind, known as "dissonance" in academic circles, Ginsberg helped revolutionize Match's approach to online dating. "I might come in and say I'm looking for a nice Catholic guy between 30 and 40 who is non-married," she says. "But after weeks of looking at people, I might get an e-mail from a guy who has kids, and I might accept that." Taking into consideration the fact that most people don't know themselves as well as they think they do, the engineers at Match adapted the algorithm to pair users with potential dates based on a combination of what they say they want and what it seems they actually want based on their actions on the site.

Now, instead of taking user's preferences at face value, Match's cutting-edge technology relies on a variety of factors to match prospective partners. Stated preferences like age range and body type are taken into consideration, while the algorithm augments that information with the knowledge it gains from an intelligent examination of a user's behavior on the site. If a member's actions don't match their stated preferences, Match learns that those preferences are not entirely correct and that the member is open to meeting people who don't fit the original description. Synapse also looks at the behavior of similar users and factors in that information as well, in a process known as "triangulation."

As impressive as Ginsberg's contribution to online dating is, Match's amazing innovations would not be possible without its team of brilliant engineers, like Amarnath Thombre, whose story we'll look at next time.

For more information on this popular dating site you can read our review of Match.com.