Online dating will always be broken, but it might be OK

In general, it is not smart to unilaterally count things out, or count things in. People change, technologies change, circumstances change, etc.

In light of that, I’m going be bold anyways.. at least with respect to online dating.

Online dating will always be broken.

Profiles are broken. It doesn’t matter what kind of profile it is. It is impossible to summarize a person and all of their subtleties with a set of questions or profile pictures or computer generated numbers.

The search is broken. Many sites provide instant searchable access to a whole pool of people. But because the profiles are broken, the search is also broken. It doesn’t matter if there are many fish in the sea, if I can’t trust their profiles to give me good information about them.

Messaging is broken. Guys need to play the numbers game and find a way to stand out. Girls receive hundreds of messages and wading through them becomes a pain in the ass. This asymmetric nature of many sites also results in girls having crappy profiles (why write it if they are going get tons of messages anyways?). This gives guys less to go on, and encourages spray and pray messaging tactics.

The dates are broken. Every date is a blind date. This must be the worst way to date. When I was single, I lined up a bunch of them and hated every one. In most real-world dates, you have at least interacted with the other person. Whether it is at a friends potluck or at a nightclub, you have talked, seen each other’s body language, and decided to trade information. That filter counts for a lot.

It is pretty easy to list the ways it is broken. Just ask anyone that has tried it. These are just my top few complaints.

Some of these can be improved, but you can’t fix them all.

Profiles will most likely always suck. Some sort of search must exist, whether you do it, or a computer does it and provides matches. Messaging is pretty much a fundamental action on the Internet. And no matter what, the first real-life date will probably always feel similar to a blind date.

Still, it might be OK.

Finding a significant other is a tough problem.

The timing needs to work out. You must both mentally and emotionally available to date. You need to be reasonably attracted to each other (however you define attraction). And the X factor needs to be there; the click, the spark, the chemistry, the excitement, whatever you want to call it.

The initial meet is just one part of it also. It is the string of dates where you really get to know the person. You see them in various situations, you meet their friends, etc.

When I was dating, each date seemed to be a toss up. It was totally random, with most of them not being very exciting. I ended up concluding that the best you could do is just meet a lot of people and hope that you click with some of them.. or at least one of them. In other words, play the numbers game.

And if that is the case, it is OK for online dating to be broken. As long as an online dating site facilitates a meet up, it has done its job.

My ideal online dating app.

Again, the main goal is to simply facilitate meet ups. Do the minimum possible, with the lowest amount of friction for both parties.

Externally, profiles would be minimal (as in what you show members on the site). You can’t expect to understand someone, so just give them a picture and few a lines to express themselves. Internally (or within the site), you can collect as much information as you’d like, and use it in a Pandora kind of way.

The interaction needs to be symmetric. Girls and guys should have a similar user experience. That means it doesn’t seem like a numbers game for guys to contact a single girl, and girls aren’t flooded with messages from guys.

Search is eliminated. You get one, or a few matches a day from guys/girls that are relatively close to you. The matches are selected with the Pandora-style algorithm. Either that, or matches are done locally in specific time frames. I want to hit a button when I walk across the street to the Starbucks, and if there is someone else on a coffee break who may be a date, I wouldn’t mind a quick intro for a 10 minute chat over coffees.

Messaging is moderated and anonymous (until you actually want to meet). You can’t just message anyone. Both people need to indicate interest. In addition, messages may be limited also. Wouldn’t it be cool if you only got 10 messages to set up a date? You can’t expect to learn much online anyways, so a meet in person would be much better.

That sounds good to me. Hmm.. seems like a mashup of Tinder plus Coffee Meets Bagel with a few extra things thrown in the mix. Someone build it!

P.S. This is post number #13 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

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4 thoughts on “Online dating will always be broken, but it might be OK

    • Hey Ganesh! Thanks for dropping by the blog, and yup, I remember the conversation too!

      Online dating is such an interesting area because although it is so crowded, it is still clear that there is space for newcomers. There will probably still be plenty of space still whenever you free up to do a startup 😉

  1. I think there are a few apps out there trying to accomplish your ideal… give me a sec and see if I can find some examples.

    https://coffeemeetsbagel.com/

    Okay there’s one. I know there are a few others too. Haven’t really tired them but basically they just give you a match and you decide whether to meet them or not. Kind of like grouper without the groups, I guess.

    • I have some friends using Coffee Meets Bagel and it seems to be pretty good.

      Haven’t known anyone that has used Grouper, but it sounds pretty awesome in theory. It is all about initiating the real-world interactions, and the 3on3 dating is a actually great way to break the first-date problem.

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