Tinder Invented Sex, Goes Insane

Longtime dating expert Julie Spira wrote a piece on HuffPo about a Vanity Fair article,  Tinder and the Dawn of “Dating Apocalypse.”.

Update: Tinder just lost its mind on Twitter over a Vanity Fair story. Grab the popcorn, this is going to be good.

I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the VF article. Story after story about relationship-challenged New Yorkers. Men in New York treat women terribly and brag about it in Vanity Fair. Wow, you don’t say?

The VF article is a retread of a topic that’s been beaten to death by the media and dating bloggers for almost two years, but VF decided to hang out with a bunch of New Yorkers who rack up Tinder sex-mates like there’s no tomorrow and talk to them like they are adults or something. The writer clearly emerged from a cave last week and the first thing they did was go on a Tinder date and now she’s scarred for life.

Surprised the cover photo wasn’t an Annie Liebowitz-styled image of a 24-year old guy in a $2,500 suit crawling down a fire escape at 4am while looking at Tinder, on his way to conquer one more target before dragging himself back to his $6,000 a month apartment he shares with a bunch of neckbeards learning how to code while working at Venture-funded almost-hot StartupX.

“It’s an eye-opener and validation of a woman’s worst fear. The guys are swiping right to hook up and it’s all just a game.” Give me a break. The women who enable men to behave this way are just as complicit in the degradation of modern courtship as Tinder is. And Tinder is at the bottom of the pile, along with Ashley Madison.

In New York legs are spreading like there’s no tomorrow and in Japan people are so timid they have to date pillows and robots and fake women on texting services. Don’t get me started on the dolls. Can someone go to Japan and help those poor people out?

What the hell did online dating do to us?

62% of Tinder users are actually in a relationship. Let that sink in for a moment. Remember what happened with Ashley Madison last month? Just wait until Tinder is hacked. By that time we’ll be so callous towards each other that everyone will just laugh. “Honey, you know, it was just me and the guys having fun at the bar.”

Can we talk about the 26 million matches made every day on Tinder? Why doesn’t anyone compare Tinder’s performance to other dating sites? More is better? Is that it. That’s all we’ve got to talk about? How many of those swipes are artificially inflated by spammers and bots? Nobody talks about that.

What is the equivalent of a right-swipe on a dating service? Replied to emails? If I email you and you email me back, that’s a match. Sam Yagan at Match told me that years ago. Back when he was the Co-founder of OkCupid, and they always said Match wasn’t worth the money and nobody should have to pay for a dating site. Money talks, right? $90 million for Sam and his team and now he’s at the helm of the company that’s changing society in ways they can’t stop, or even fathom because they’re right in the middle of it. Scary.

Maybe Mandy Ginsberg got out of Match at the right time. She’s now the CEO of The Princeton Review and on the board of JC Penny. I wonder what she thinks of Tinder.

Tinder’s definition of a match as two people physically moving their fingers about a quarter of an inch to the right compared with writing and responding to emails. Comparing swipes to responded-to emails is ridiculous; they’re not even comparable. But we’re talking about Tinder here, so anything goes.

How about this. Whenever two people like or favorite each other’s photos on a dating service, they are a match. Is that comparable to Tinder mutual swipes? I don’t know and I really don’t care anymore. And neither does anyone else, because all I read about in the media are stories about people on Tinder hooking up three times a week and 25 million matches a day.

What’s that other site, Hinge? Raised millions of dollars and copied much of Tinder and now it’s one of the most used services? Slow clap. They’ll sell to Match as well. You do understand that acquisitions like POF are arranged years in advance, right? It’s not like Sam Yagan and company woke up a few months ago with the brand-new burning desire to acquire POF.

Match CEO Greg Blatt Two years ago:

I think domestically, there’s nothing that we need to own, meaning we’ve got sort of everything checked off. 

Yeah, right. Go Markus@POF. He’s the smartest guy in the industry. $575M for a company where what, 20% of it’s users leave every month! Markus destroyed Zoosk and a ton of competitors, warts and all, and gets a half-billion for the effort. Much applause for a job well done! Talk about taking the long view of the industry.

Online dating is barely recognizable from when I started covering it in 2002. Yes of course there are well-run sites captained by fantastic people, but those companies are extremely rare. How unfortunate.

Julie Spira says that women are meeting men on Tinder to change them. Now I’ve heard everything. Almost a year ago I wrote, Can Dating Sites Make Us More Civil? The answer is obviously a resounding no. Online dating has turned a large portion of the dating population into a bunch of maladjusted sexaholics (for the most part, if you read anything in the media about online dating these days). If you want to change the way men relate to women, Tinder is not the right medium to make that happen.

Really, it’s best not to think about it too much, we might get a conscious and realize how screwed up dating is now and that it’s mostly the fault of the dating industry for being asleep at the wheel while the money rolled in.

The Match Empire grew so large and boring! Sure it prints money, but for a category-leading brand, it’s become a real snooze. Can’t go wrong buying a Toyota, right? Makes me pine for the days when OkCupid was all the rage. To this day, Adult Friend finder is the most feature-rich dating or hookup app on the planet. Even OkCupid has changed very little in five years, just like Match. See a trend here? You think there are going to be any big changes at POF? Nope.

Remember when the industry cared about matching algorithms? Not any more. Well eHarmony has to, it’s in their branding and their DNA. Everyone else has “data scientists”, which is short for, “I have no idea what I’m doing but I landed this prime gig at dating site X.”

I’ve always felt like a bit of an edgy ombudsman regarding the online dating industry. Terrible way to make a living though. Having a conscience and all, difficult to get ahead. But I’ve had a lot of fun over the years and met some amazing people who toil behind the scenes who actually care about their customers. May they keep rocking on.

How quaint that Tinder and marketers have rebranded spammers and scammers as “brands”. Now that is something that Tinder got right.

In finality, Tinder is the worst thing to ever happen to the online dating industry. End of story.

Why Bots Like Dating Sites

Verified_Human_Whitelist

Dating services employ any number of  anti-fraud solutions. Over the years I’ve seen registered devices (doesn’t work), geo-IP lookups and all sorts of home-brewed solutions.

Are You Human is a technology used to fight bots, which supposedly account for 2/3’s of most dating site traffic. Back in the day, Markus at POF told me that something like 75% (I think?) of their code base was focused on anti-fraud measures. That blew me away.

The humans at Are You Human say:

Instead of searching for bots, which evolve in a matter of days, “Are You Human” finds and verifies humans by analyzing natural user behavior across hundreds of thousands of websites. After they have consistently seen and verified a user as human, they’re added to the Whitelist™, and then re-verified over and over again each day. Bots can’t consistently look and act like real humans on every page, every day, so they’re never added to the list, and all that’s left are real humans.

“Are you Human” started in 2010, initially as a verification technology to replace the obnoxious twisted text known as CAPTCHA. Since then, we’ve evolved to analyze natural interaction in any environment, and now we analyze and re-verify hundreds of millions of humans every day in interactions across millions of websites.

More information.

Is The End Of Ashley Madison Near?

ashley madison hacked
Cheater dating site Ashley Madison has been hacked by someone who worked there in the past in a technical capacity. The person was upset that AM was charging people to remove their profiles completely.

Instead of doing what everyone else supposedly does, AM charged $17 for what amounts to running an SQL database query to remove all traces of a user from their system. And that was complete BS.

The hacker states:

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the hacking group wrote. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.

Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.

No wonder they were hacked. Full Delete was a lame feature to offer, and it made them less than $2M last year. Was that revenue worth the impending backlash the company may suffer? Not to mention that investors are probably reconsidering participation in the planned Ashley Madison IPO.

The breach, which could reveal the identities of millions of cheaters, seriously erodes consumer confidence in the brand. I don’t think there is a risque billboard that can save them at this point. We’ll look at the AM numbers in six months to gauge the impact of the hack.

More at Krebs On Security.

The Match Group to Acquire POF (PlentyOfFish)

Markus Sam Dave
Sam Yagan, CEO of The Match Group, David Evans, Online Dating Insider, and Markus Frind, founder of POF

 

The Match Group, the global operator of digital dating products such as Match, Tinder, OkCupid and Meetic, and a subsidiary of IAC, announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase PlentyOfFish for US$575 million in cash.

I wrote Be Plenty Scared of Plenty Of Fish in 2oo5 and again in an Inc. Magazine article, And the Money Comes Rolling In.

POF founder Markus Frind stands to make around $525 million on the deal. This is an extraordinary move for Match. I think from here on out we’ll get a Tinder every few years and nobody will be able to touch Match, at least in English speaking countries, for the next decade.

Of course hundreds of new mobile dating apps will continue to launch every year in the hopes of being the Next Big Thing. But of the 50 or so apps that made it on to my home screen last year, I can’t remember 95% of them. That’s a huge problem for the industry, a lack of discernibly different dating app experiences.

Seems like the Match Group is all set for their split from IAC. Match buys Hinge next, because Hinge investors are in for $20M and want a return on their investment soon, not a dragged-out deal like Zoosk. I wonder how long Match will wait to do the Hinge transaction?

Investor Alert: There are a number of dating startups in South America trying to grow large enough to be acquired by Match. Want to hear about them?

More at Seeking Alpha.

AARP Wants Dating Sites To Crack Down On Fraud

romance_scamsHow interesting that the AARP ignored the dating industry for over a decade and now calls for the industry to crack down on fraud, probably because lots of their members are getting scammed on their own dating site, powered by HowAboutWe, which is owned by Match. More info on the deal.

I wonder if AARP talked to Match before they started a media campaign that attacks their own business partner?

 

According to the FBI, Americans lost $82 million to online dating fraud in just the last six months of 2014. 

The dating industry has left singles to fend for themselves since it’s inception. I don’t consider articles about brushing your teeth before a date and not leaving your credit card on the table after dinner to be especially useful, but then again I brush several times daily and don’t give money to strangers based on transparent sob stories.

The dating industry has had an enormous toolbox of safety measures to work with for a long time. They haven’t because many of the solutions introduce friction into the customer acquisition and retention process. That’s certainly a large part of there is so much online dating scamming going on.

In fact, there is no technology on the planet that can keep older folks and those with a propensity towards being clueless when it comes to self-preservation from letting themselves be scammed.

And now the AARP’s Fraud Watch Network has launched an online petition urging the online dating industry to institute new safeguards to better protect their users. The Association is inviting its members and the general public to become involved in the national campaign by signing the petition.

The Fraud Watch Network urges the online dating sites to implement include:

— Employ algorithms to detect suspicious language patterns used by
scammers.
— Search for fake profiles across multiple dating websites.
— Issue alerts to any member who has been in contact with someone using a
fraudulent profile.
— Educate members with tips on how to avoid romance scammers.

Can you imagine signing a petition and having the dating industry fall right in line, spending millions of dollars on anti-fraud services it should have implemented years ago? As I said about the AARP HowAboutWe deal, pigs certainly are able to fly given the right circumstances.

 

Cuban Disses CMB, Funds Competitor Courtem

courtem datingThe Coffee Meets Bagel crash & burn on Shark Tank has led to an interesting development.

Mark Cuban, who’s $30M offer the CMB sisters turned down, has invested in Courtem, a dating app from the Anheuser-Busch family. Cuban serves as an advisor and holds an equity stake in the company.

Singles join Courtem to see, “what someone might offer them as the best date of their life.” Courtem goes beyond simply the shallow (at first glance) interactions of other dating apps and urges users to thoroughly review another’s profile, interests, friends-in-common, proximity, and rating to help them develop their best date proposal. The direct date proposal system eliminates swiping and judging on a “hot or not” basis.

Oh the lies. The first thing I see when I log in is a Tinder interface, complete with swiping! They call it a 360-degree dating application. I call it yet another Tinder clone with some reputation and scheduling baked in. Plus, they use “court” as a noun, the press release is full of grammatical errors and there is a big dumb Patent Pending thing on the home page. As if. I’m picky about this stuff, big boooo to the Courtem marketing and PR teams.

Progressive communication features are nice, I’ll give them that, but they lost me already because even though I am in Vermont, the app only shows me two 18 year old women. How can such esteemed founders forget to front-load the database and make sure this doesn’t happen? Facepalm.

There’s more than a little HowAboutWe baked into the mix as well. Because we know how well date suggestions work out, right?

The Doodle-like scheduling of the day and time of our next communication is neat but talk about friction.

As I thought, the app is as bland and tasteless as the beer.

Maybe version 2.0 will grace us with a bevy of stellar improvements, you never know.

Scamalytics Release Industry Report on Scammers and Dating Fraud | Scamalytics

GDI

Global Dating Insights and Scamalytics have collaborated on a scammers and dating fraud report.

The report covers scammers and dating fraud and what the industry and third-parties can do to combat the threat they pose.

They look at the current frauds infecting mobile apps like Tinder, trends like sextortion, and how these scammers are adapting their methods to the new dating landscape, and cleverly circumventing security measures.

The report also seeks to show that stopping dating scammers is not only a huge positive for both the customer and the industry as the whole, but can also be good for business.

Download the report here (PDF).

Coffee Meets Bagel Lands $7.8M Funding

Today’s dating industry jaw-dropper is that Coffee Meets Bagel has managed to convince investors to give them almost $8M to continue to build and grow the straggling service. Investors just gave a niche service a huge pot of gold. Full details at TechCrunch.

Only a few weeks ago, CMB failed spectacularly on Shark Tank, flubbing their pitch and then turning down $30 million from Mark Cuban, the biggest offer ever on the show. Unbelievable.

I would have taken the money and run. Delivering singles one match a day doesn’t work. People want choice, just look at Tinder.

The Kang sisters report the site has made more than 20 million matches with 10,000 couples in relationships and about 80 couples engaged or married. As for the turning down Cuban’s offer, they say they have no regrets.

I don’t care about:

  • 20 million matches
  • 10,000 couples in relationships
  • 80 engaged/married couples
  • Mark Cuban’s television posturing

Engagement numbers are where it’s at, not visitor or number of matches, whatever that means (different definition for many sites). What I want to know is how many people have responded to communication requests. Everything else is investor spin.

Somebody call me a doctor. Speaking of spin, my head was spinning when I read about the twenty million matches. Just what does that mean? I assume it means 40 million people have been matched. That’s crazy. Or are they counting people matched multiple times? The lack of any standard metrics in the dating industry is a decade-old problem with no solution in sight. Drives me nuts.

I would have loved to sit in on the investor partner meetings when they dug into the hard-core due diligence. Those guys have balls of steel and need a place to spend their cash, and ding ding ding CMB welcome to being owned by The Money People, best of luck keeping them at bay. If there was more traction I’d be less likely to say that, but CMB has to execute perfectly, otherwise they’re toast, especially since they admitted to at linking up around 30 people a year.

Millions of dollars and 5+ years to strongly connect 160 people. Think about that.

In what other industry can a 0.05% success rate raise $8 million dollars? That’s about the same chances as getting someone to click on a banner ad.

At this point we’ll sit back for the year and watch Hinge and CMB battle it out, at least from the perspective that they have both raised significant amounts of capital and have some overlap in terms of functionality.

I think Hinge will go the way of HowAboutWe. Big buildup, funding, media darlings and then when the hype has settled, reality sets in. Friends matching friends is old hat, and strangely it’s never really worked in the digital space. Sure there are many matches being made across a couple of services, but in the grand scheme of things, barely making a ripple.

Hopefully all of this money will allow Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel to figure things out. That’s a long runway and also a lot of time for competitors to come in with cheaper/better/faster and more effective offerings.

I worked on my first friends-matching-friends service in 2009. That was six years ago. And for all the hype, now all we have is Hinge and CMB, that’s it! Even LikeBright pivoted to anonymous chat, and they were deep into friend-matching.

Just wait until Match unveils a friend-matching app, that’s going to be fun to watch.

Unsecure Android Dating Apps Everywhere

ibm mobile security audit
Dating apps are fun to hack for knowledge and profit. No mention of iOS apps in this IBM story,  but this is not exactly surprising. Dating site apps are so easy to crank out these days, security is an afterthought at most companies.

An analysis conducted by IBM Security found over 60 percent of leading dating mobile apps on Android are potentially vulnerable to a variety of cyber-attacks that put personal user information and corporate data at risk.

The IBM study reveals that many of these dating applications have access to additional features on mobile devices such as the camera, microphone, storage, GPS location and mobile wallet billing information, which in combination with the vulnerabilities may make them exploitable to hackers. IBM also found that nearly 50 percent of organizations have at least one of these employee-installed popular dating apps on mobile devices used to access confidential business information.

The good news is that today’s mobile dating apps are so generic and basic, there’s not much personal information to steal. But in terms of corporate data, have fun hackers. #ismatchthenexttarget

More at IBM Security.