NETWORK WORLD -- Feb 7 -- No one knows online dating better than Mark Brooks, editor of OnlinePersonalsWatch.com. Brooks is a modern-day Cyrano -- he's a consultant to many of the Web's largest online dating sites as well as traditional matchmaking services. Network World interviewed Brooks about the hottest trends in online dating.
Q:How many online dating services are there?
MB: Hitwise has estimated there are 800-plus. I think that's about right for the U.S. A lot of them are affiliate sites that are driving traffic to the main dating sites.
Q: How has online dating affected traditional matchmaking services?
MB: Internet dating has warmed an entire generation of users to the prospect of getting help in dating and paying for that help.
Q: What new technologies are you are seeing in online dating?
MB: One of the biggest innovations is avatar-based instant messaging. One site that's pioneering the use of avatars is OmniDate.com. Another emerging technology is iovation, which helps online dating sites battle fraud. With iovation's Reputation Manager, one dating site can flag a person as abusive and throw them out and then let other sites in the online dating community know about it.
Q: How has online dating technology changed in recent years?
MB: Actually, online dating is in about the same place that it has been in for the last three years. One of the things I'd like to see is more technology being applied to personality profiling. In this area there are four companies worth mentioning: Perfectmatch.com; eHarmony.com; Chemistry.com; and True.com.
Q: Have social networkings like Facebook and MySpace cut into online dating traffic?
MB: The numbers show that less people are coming to Internet dating sites. According to ComScore the number of people who came to Internet dating sites in December 2007 was down 10% over the prior year. But I don't think it's the end of online dating. I think the lookilous have gone away.
Q:What are the hottest trends in online dating?
MB: One is the rise in Baby Boomers and also rise of free dating sites, such as Plentyoffish.com, DateHookup.com, OkCupid.com, Matchdoctor.com, Bookofmatches.com, Smooch.com and CrazyBlindDate.com.
Q: What do you see as the future of online dating?
MB: It's difficult to enter the market and be a large generic dating site at this stage. The only thing you can build today is a niche dating site, and even niches are hard to build. That's why we're seeing the rise of a bunch of companies that offer white-label dating services. One of these companies is Whitelabeldating.com.