Describe yourself in three sentences.
Now do it over again, and this time, answer honestly. It took Amy Webb a few passes around the online dating world to see the one glaring problem with sites like Match.
People who use them — herself included — don't answer the questions honestly. These questions are what the sites rely on to pair you with someone you might like, or even love.
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As a result, users get matched up with people they have nothing in common with and, date after torturous date, they're left asking themselves 'What is wrong with me?
To get the date you really want, you have to hack the system. Lucky for you, Webb, who's also a data analyst and journalist, has already done all the grunt work. Tired of break-ups and looking for a lifetime partner, she signed up for a handful of online dating sites. After filling in all of the questionnaire and getting a few responses, she ventured out to meet her first match.
The first date was a disaster. Once she arrived at the glamorous restaurant he'd picked out, he began making lewd jokes and ordering tons of food. Then, just before the waiter dropped off the massive bill, the date left, never to be seen again.
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Fazed but determined, Webb struggled on. When the dates didn't improve, she started logging them in a spreadsheet, pulling out dozens of data points on her alleged "matches" in an attempt to discover what was going wrong.
What she found surprised her. In fact, the algorithms "were doing exactly what they were designed to do," says Webb.
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But in order for the algorithms to match up two people, both of them have to answer the questions on which they're based honestly. This is the crux of the problem, says Webb: Of course there are sites aimed at specific religious or ethnic groups, but there are also those who aim to match couples with very specific interests. The Passion Network, for example, is a small empire of dating hubs like bronypassions.
Thanks to the growth of such sites, the industry has expanded at 3. Analysts expect the acceleration to continue over the next five years. Target marketing, changing demographics, and decreasing stigma about online dating are continually bringing new users to fore. That growth is already beginning to attract investors.
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The field is already crowded, with almost 3, companies running dating sites, according to a report last fall from business research firm IBISWorld. The report projects the industry to add about a hundred companies per year over the next four years.
The biggest web dating companies have a huge lead over the competition—two control more than 40 percent of the market. The stats are staggering.