In 2002 Wired Magazine said, “twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks…” Only 10 years have passed, but dating digitally is a massive movement. In fact, one in five relationships begin on an online dating site. And as the sheer number of users and couples grow in the online dating industry, innovation follows.
Earlier this month at South by South West, an interactive conference in Austin where 20,000 techies come for inspiration, information and announcements (Twitter and Foursquare launched during past conventions), I moderated a love battle featuring eHarmony and HowAboutWe that discussed consumer patterns of online dating. As the panel unfolded one thing became clear: how we understand compatibility today is ever morphing. Though eHarmony and HowAboutWe naturally compete for many of the same users, each site takes a completely different but unique approach.
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But what do their actions regarding compatibility mean for you as an online dater? Let’s take a look at the panel’s key insights and how you can benefit from what was revealed by Julie Fields, VP of Brand and Creative Strategy at eHarmony and Brian Schechter, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of HowAboutWe.
Matching Is An Unknown
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What They Say: On the topic of how sites create compatibility, eHarmony and HowAboutWe had different takes. eHarmony’s business is centered around what Fields describes as “our understanding of psychology and what creates long term relationships and compatibility.” Scientists and psychologists are on staff, so their innovations happen behind closed screens. Matches are selected for and delivered to users via a massive algorithm.
But on HowAboutWe, users can search for matches as far and wide as they’d like — no algorithm exists. While Schechter admits to understanding the need for algorithms on large volume sites so users can find one another, he counters that there is “no scientific support for any of the algorithms that any dating site has ever put forward.”