Online Dating and Personals Network - LoveCompass - Weblog

Online Personals & Dating Services Network
All about dating services business, online personals websites, changes in overall e-commerce world affecting dating, matchmaking, mail-order brides and online personals websites. Most recent LoveCompass announcements, reports, and plans. 

February 25, 2004

New Trends Help Seekers Find Love Online

Amid social networking phenomenon, dating Web sites create opportunities for genuine interaction
By Michael Jones, President, Userplane

Love may be all around, but right now, online dating is booming like never before.

  • Some 44 percent of Americans believe that individuals have a better chance of meeting a partner online than in a singles bar, according to Ipsos-Reid, an international market and social research company.
  • The Personals/Dating category surpassed Business/Investing and Entertainment/Lifestyles content to become the leading paid content category in Q3 2002 with $87 million in revenues, a 387 percent gain over the same quarter the previous year, according to the Online Publishers Association.

    But, just like with dating itself, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The question is, “Is there anything interesting behind the pretty face?”

    Thanks to new trends involving technological advancements along with genuine creativity, there is. In fact, so-called “social networking” Websites – dating sites in particular – are on the rise not only in the area of consumer usage. Of late, the segment has witnessed a significant infusion of capital, as the industry progresses toward providing both real interaction online and the business models to support ongoing online communities.

    Nowhere is this more evident than in the online dating scene. The evolution of Internet dating is not unlike that of its offline counterpart. From arranged marriages, to chaperoned courtship, to slightly more freedom to almost anything goes –- traditional offline dating progressed from a system that involved knowing hardly more than name and rank on the wedding day, to the point at which parties now ask for complete financial and medical disclosure and can purchase full-scale background checks over the Internet.

    Online dating is following a similar evolutionary process. Many matchmaking sites compile lists of potential mates using photos and only the most basic information – age, gender and location. With this bare-bones “profile,” people are directed to a list of potential mates – almost like looking for love in the phone book. In the end, decisions are made almost exclusively based on a photo.

    But over the past few years new trends have emerged, spurring the evolution of online dating and shifting the matchmaking process from the “arranged marriage” end of the spectrum toward informed choices based on relevant information. Recent technological advancements have created an online dating scene in which participants can meet people from the comforts of their own homes, talk face-to-face in real time using audio and video, and access online journals that reveal thoughts and opinions.

    Friendster, MySpace, Say Hello to Blogs

    One of the more recent evolutionary steps came with Web sites like Friendster.com and MySpace.com, services that connect people through online networks of mutual friends. Members join, then invite their friends to join, creating a coast-to-coast online social network.

    This new social-networking trend connects friends-of-friends, helping people find possible mates or simply new friends. It goes beyond the age, gender, location formula to match individuals based on mutual friends and similar interests.

    This approach offers a more personal experience than the list-cruising of the past, and allows for more custom searching based on relevant information. The industry is gaining attention of late through a series of announcements about new venture capital funding for Friendster and some of its rivals – LinkedIn, ZeroDegrees, Tribe.Net and others. Even standbys like eVite.com are rethinking their strategies in favor of joining the broader social networking bandwagon.

    At the same time, the burgeoning practice of blogging is pushing online dating even further toward “informed choice.” Blogs, short for weblogs, are a kind of online diary. Through a blogging service, anyone can maintain a running commentary online – accessible to anyone with Internet access.

    While dating sites typically restrict the creation of individual personal home pages, blogs offer a forum for sharing anything from deeply held convictions to random musings. Bloggers can create and post content immediately, and often update their blogs daily – even multiple times per day.

    Blogs provide a formula of creating online identities – or at least sharing one’s offline identity with anyone who cares to notice – giving potential suitors a much deeper, more relevant personal profile.

    Expanding Instant Messaging

    Much like the offline dating world’s phone call, instant messaging (IM) capabilities transform static data on a page into actual online, real-time conversations.

    But while providing a handy form of communication, text-based messaging systems are limited to the keyboard. There’s no visual or audio, making it difficult to create a true personal connection. Emotions are expressed through a common language of key strokes :), rather than through more meaningful nuances of voice fluctuation and other verbal clues.

    Progress has been made: while previous systems only displayed the conversations, today’s IM users may have access to some personal information to help provide an initial spark. But it’s still a one-dimensional conversation.

    Growth in online audio and video capabilities – and the proliferation of higher bandwidth to support them – is bumping online communication up a notch into the two-dimensional world.

    Integrating audio and video into a live online dating experience gives the entire process more validity and increased security:

  • People will not be able to pass themselves off as something they’re not – at least in the obvious ways
  • Video profiles offer more depth and expression than do lists of likes and dislikes
  • Real-time, online dates that use audio and video provide real interaction while allowing each participant location anonymity and security – there’s no immediate need to give out phone numbers, addresses or to meet in person

    Users have the opportunity to date online “virtually” – allowing for a much more personal experience than before – without leaving the comfort and security of home.

    According to Tim Sullivan, president of Match.com: “Online dating is going to evolve with the convergence of various technologies. We believe video and voice are going to be a big part of our business.”

    The Future of Online Dating

    The future of online dating will include all of these trends: Friendster’s relevant searching method, instant messaging capabilities and the use of audio and video – which all combine to create personal meaningful interactions. And the integration of blogging tools will give users the ability to truly create an online identity, and give the website that houses that profile a lifelong customer.

    But beyond the technological advancements that give users better tools for getting to know each other, online dating will explode as new business models take shape:

  • Profiles will become commodities that are shared outside the “walls” of the individual dating sites.
  • Systems soon will allow profiles to be searched through standard file-sharing mechanisms. Imagine a video profile along with an abbreviated data file that can be placed into Kazaa and searched through a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. After selecting profiles of interest, users register with the particular dating Web site to gain access to the complete file – including contact information. This enables a dating Web site to circulate its dating inventory externally on computers around the world.
  • A system to standardize user profiles will take shape, to allow universal access to “networks” of dating Web sites.
  • And in perhaps the biggest endorsement yet of the online dating sector, AOL recently unveiled Love.com, a personals site that incorporates AOL’s popular Instant Messenger (AIM) service – with audio and video capabilities. Leveraging AOL’s current user base of paid AOL subscribers and free AOL IM subscribers, AOL has essentially invited all AOL users to join Love.com.

    As consumer magazines weekly attest, there’s no shortage of dating pitfalls and mishaps – whether online or off. But as more and more people look for love on the Internet, the evolution of online dating will continue to make it just a little bit easier than before.

    Michael Jones is president and co-founder of Userplane (www.userplane.com) in Los Angeles.
    Posted by LC at 08:00 AM
  • February 23, 2004

    Am I Weird If I Date Online? (By Devlyn Steele)

    True story: A few years back I was working with a client who had recently moved to Los Angeles. She was single, did not know many people in the big city, and felt a little lonely. I innocently suggested she give online dating a shot. It seemed like an easy and pressure-free way to meet people, and I had other clients who enjoyed their experience and were in good relationships as a result.

    "What kind of desperate person do you think I am?!?" she snapped.

    She apologized, but explained that she felt “weird” about online dating. This perked my curiosity, so later I asked some of my other clients if they ever tried it. Some only confessed after their faces turned three shades of crimson. Since I am a strong proponent of online dating, I dispel any stigma or embarrassment when I recommend it to my clients. This is what I tell them:

    For many singles, life moves like Richard Petty around the Talladega Speedway. We change jobs every few years. We relocate more frequently. We cannot remember the last time we answered a phone with a cord. Even if time is not the issue, some single people cannot shake the feeling that everyone else is happy while they are always alone. We may look at online dating as an act of desperation, because “normal people don’t need something like that.”

    The simple fact is that you are not weird if you use an online dating service. We only feel weird when we think we are doing something outside the norm. Consider this: over 40 million people in the US access online dating websites every month. It is the fastest growing sector of online content. There is no reason to feel embarrassed, because if you date online you are actually part of a huge group.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to find someone special, or at the very least make some new friends, so why not use every resource available to you? You do not get extra points for meeting someone in a bar or while waiting for dry socks at the Laundromat. Does it matter to you how you met the important people already in your life? You probably barely even think about it.

    By setting up a personal profile and a list of likes and dislikes, you invest time in yourself. More importantly, you are taking action by trying to improve yourself and your situation. You are putting yourself out there and taking control by refusing to be lonely and isolated.

    I have found many advantages to the Internet. The anonymity of online dating allows you to roll out of bed, hair standing in ten different directions, breath smelling like Boston Harbor at low tide – then click! You stumble on a person you will be dating in a few weeks. The cost compared to going out and searching is next to nothing. You can learn more about a person’s interests to see if they mesh with yours. You do not have to deal with the harshness of rejection in person. You have a huge pool of people to explore (remember, 40 million!) from all walks-of-life, people you would never have the chance to meet within your neighborhood or small circle of friends.

    There is also fraud and deception. You will probably come across a photo that looks eerily like Pamela Anderson – right down to the copyright in the lower corner. Clients tell me about married people posing as single. Nevertheless, these issues of honesty exist both on and off-line, so do not let that stop you from finding the partner you want.

    With 43% of the U.S. population being single and with so many single clients asking me about Internet dating, I began to put a guide together to help my clients use this service effectively and safely and avoid these pitfalls. I want everyone to find the happiness they deserve and want to make this Tool book available to everyone for Free! To get your free E-Book, “Tools To Internet Dating” go to TheRelationshipTools.com and get your copy today.

    Don’t be ashamed or afraid, learn the best and safest way to use the Internet to take control of your life and find the person you deserve!

    Devlyn Steele ("America's Leading Life-Coach") has been a public consultant and a private counselor for over 15 years. A Cognitive Therapist, Radio host and Columnist, Devlyn also developed ToolsToLife.com. Devlyn maintains a thriving practice in Hollywood, where he counsels famous actors, musicians and captains of industry. Soon his new book will be available, Relationship Tools. You can hear Coach Steele live every Tuesday on LoveBeat Radio 1310 KXAM.com 7-9 PM. Arizona Time.

    Posted by LC at 03:08 AM