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Online Dating Evolves

We're moving more of our social lives online and updating these sites at the speed of technology, but what about our romantic lives? Do we update our partner-seeking strategy as often as our cell phones?
/ Source: Discovery Channel

We're moving more of our social lives online and updating these sites at the speed of technology, but what about our romantic lives? Do we update our partner-seeking strategy as often as our cell phones?

As online dating becomes increasingly common, the ways people are meeting via the Internet are becoming more diverse.

Laurie Davis met her boyfriend on Twitter two years ago and is the founder and CEO of She told, "Dating is evolving... The niche sites that are popping up now are much more exciting because they're giving you access to a much more select group of people."

With the addition of creative themes, the latest in mobile technology and novel payment plans, these new dating sites are challenging the domination of the big three:, eHarmony and LavaLife. These sites rely on their marketing and vast user bases to lure in flummoxed potential daters.

However, it turns out jumping into such a gigantic pool of singles isn't the personalized experience some users crave. To capture the niche user, these sites are thinking differently about how to connect their users with a date (or a group of dates).

Company: HowAboutWe
Stats: 400,000 dates posted. $28/month
Founded by: Brian Schechter and Aaron Schildkrout
Big Idea: Focus on proposing a creative date

Schechter and Schildkrout realized answering lots of questions, filling profiles with information and having a vast pool to choose from wasn't why people joined dating sites. Instead, users simply wanted to go on a good date!

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From this idea sprang the title of the site and the execution of the idea all in one. Logging on, the singles finish the phrase "How About We…" with an activity for their date. Once posted other singles can browse and click if they're "intrigued."

Davis feels "Their new formula helps singles connect in a more natural way." She goes on to add the idea is actually innovative in the world of online dating. "Proposing a date gives singles an immediate topic of conversation for emails and way to connect, and it's a simple transition to dating offline."

Company: Sparkology
Stats: Not open to the general public. Women: $15/month. Men: $15 to contact 5 women.
Founded by: Alex Furmansky
Big Idea: Invite-only. Men paying for packs and women pay monthly to eliminate spamming

Sparkology wanted to stop the downfalls of online dating, the copycat generic messages, the fake profiles, and accounts that have sat without an update for years. Founder Alex Furmansky solved the problem by making the site more exclusive. This way the site filter users that don't fit the community.

Furmanskey spoke to about Sparkology, "The opportunity lies in focusing on a specific demographic and offering them a superior experience that a middle-market behemoth could never match."

On Sparkology, the men must be verified graduates of "top universities" with the site "focusing on the unique needs of young professionals in major cities." The gamechanger has to do with the contact system. On Sparkology, men buy a "Spark Pack" to initiate conversations. The site says this method "eliminates unwanted impersonal e-mails. Women receive meaningful interactions from men that are genuinely interested, while men no longer need to spam dozens of profiles to get a response."

Additionally, Sparkology uses behavioral monitoring; following you through the site and tailoring your matches based on the actions you take while logged in. They equate the service to Pandora or Netflix, but instead of media they use the monitoring to "help you find your perfect match."

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Company: OKCupid
Stats: 7 million members. Free for Basic service. $9.95/month for Premium.
Founded by: Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan, Christian Rudder and Max Krohn
Big Idea: Use data mining to match singles interests/activities.

While OKcupid isn't exactly a new site, it was founded in 2004, its using some novel ideas concerning data-mining. Data-mining involves using computers to sort through massive amounts of data to find patterns that wouldn't be apparent by browsing one profile at a time.

These datasets went viral around the internet and caught the attention of many around the internet -- including who bought OKCupid for $50 million in September 2010.

"Part of what makes the site brilliant is the incorporation of social networking aspects and gaming schematics. But at the end of the day, it is still undeniably a site to meet your next date," Davis told

Company: Ignighter
Stats: 2 million members. Range of prices from $10 to $45/year
Founded by: Kevin Owocki, Daniel Osit, and Adam Sachs
Big Idea: Group dating

Ignighter started in Manhattan back in 2008, but didn't readily catch on. On their about page, it says, "90 percent of the time meeting someone one-on-one is more awkward than a junior high dance." Their goal was to get groups of friends together to meet and mingle. The idea being with the group people would feel less awkward and enjoy each other's company without the pressure of one-on-one interaction.

While the site didn't take off domestically, it has a large following internationally in places where singles dating is discouraged. In India, cultural traditions bar one-on-one dates, but group dating through Ignighter is accepted and the site has flourished.

According to, "The focus on India has encouraged many U.S. entrepreneurs to explore the national territory by creating sites like DuoDater, FourTonight and DatingInGroups."

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Company: Meexo
Stats: Unknown
Founded by: Dav Yaginuma and Romain David
Big Idea: Social gaming and mobile access to create a fun mobile app.

Meexo takes the dating site mobile. According to Meexo, "The more you use Meexo, the more Meexo becomes relevant to you," similar to the behavioral monitoring of other sites. While Meexo has yet to launch, it made a splash at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference back in September. Meexo will hit the iPhone "soon" according to their site.

"Meexo ... is attempting to bridge the gap between location-based gaming and romance," Davis said. "Armed with their research into 'what women want,' the app could be the next best thing." Your Smartphone Is Your Wingman: Best Dating Apps Do You FourSquare on the First Date?