Is the secret to the modern dating site specificity?
Epstein divides dating sites into three categories: the “long bar,” the “long test” and the “niche.” A hugely popular and well-known site, like the aptly named PlentyOfFish.com would be a “long bar” site
— like going to a bar that stretches on for miles, with a nearly infinite number of people to drink, date or flirt with. The “long test” sites, such as Chemistry.com, start users off with a lengthy personality questionnaire that can take up to 45 minutes to complete — a process that tends to eliminate those afraid of commitment — then requires them to wait for the site to dole out its computer-chosen matches.
But a woman who posts an attractive photo on a popular site can easily have hundreds of replies to sift through, and that’s where niche sites come in: They’re weeder-outers. Users know going in that they’ll have at least one thing in common with a prospective inamorata/o, which makes for easier first-date icebreaking.
If Ayn Rand isn’t your turn-on, the Net can certainly provide something that is. Sites like JDate, SingleMuslim or BuddhistConnect, which match singles on the basis of religion, are among the earliest and most common types of specialized dating networks. And things have only become more diverse. Neck biters can hunt for bite-ees at VampirePassions. Aviators are promised that they’ll “never fly solo again” at Crewdating, a site for pilots and flight attendants. “World of Warcraft” gamers search for love at (the somewhat male-dominated) Datecraft. Cupidtino, the “Mac-inspired” dating site for Apple fanboys and girls, boasts that it’s “packed with designers, photographers, musicians, and tons of creative types.” Single members of the Bahai faith turn to TwoDoves, and vegans can search for partners on sites like VeggieDate, VeggieFishing or VeggiePassions that cater to their desire for cruelty-free love.
It’s an interesting concept, though it seems to me that the biggest problem you’d run into that there is so rarely gender balance among anything specific. I mean, maybe DisabledCupid is on to something, but I’d expect VeggieDate to be skewed in one direction and Rand devotees to be skewed to another.
Of course, that brings up questions about gender balance in general. It is still commonly said that guys outnumber girls by a significant degree. On the one hand, statistics suggest otherwise. On the other, that may be highly dependent on age and the type of site (more below). One of the things that comes to mind are those ads I see for Zoosk, which is a dating site whose ads are pretty clearly aimed at women. I remember thinking that was smart as a pre-emptive attempt to instill balance. If you’re looking at one imbalance or another, going directly to the minority side and figuring that the majority side won’t be too put off seems like a smart strategy. Zoosk apparently focuses on the younger crowd, which if there is a general imbalance, that would be the one I would figure to have over-representation of guys.
According to Wikipedia, eHarmony (“long test”) is almost 60% female while Match.com (“long bar”) is the other way around. This has a certain degree of logic to it. Even setting aside the questionnaire, a website that filters out users would likely be of more use to women than to men. I know that when I was briefly a member of a high-maintenance (costly, among other things) dating site, it seemed that the response rate I got from women was quite good (somewhere near 100%) and I got unsolicited pings either because the balance was skewed in my favor or because the cost made it so that each message ping was considered more relevant. On the other side was LavaLife, where it wasn’t free but you were charged on a per-unique-contact basis.
The niche site is a system that can be gamed if you’re a guy pretending to be a vegetarian or a lady who pretending to like Japanese animation (well, in 2001, it may be different now). Of course, that presents its own disincentives.