How match.com made love happen

Dating website match.com has been 'making love happen' since the dawn of the internet. Here's how it met with success.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Early years

 

Match.com started in 1995, when your average SWF or SBM (with or without GSOH) still relied on traditional 'get drunk in a bar' methods of meeting new partners.

It owes its existence to a change of direction by founder Gary Kremen. He was a Stanford MBA and internet early adopter who founded Electric Classifieds in San Francisco to provide online ads for local papers. But in the shower one morning it struck him that dating could be much more lucrative.

Given the decline of the once-mighty regional press in the USA and elsewhere, this has to rank as one of the better 'accidental' business decisions. But Kremen didn't last long - a row with investors led to his selling out in 1998 to Cendant for $7m.

Designed to appeal to women (get them onboard and the men will follow), Match.com spread to 25 countries, is in eight languages and with around two million subscribers (and many more free users) is the world's largest dating site.

Recent history

 

Like Amazon, match.com is a vindication of first-mover advantage. After changing hands a few times it is now owned by IAC, parent company of Ask.com and Vimeo among others, which was founded by veteran US TV magnate Barry Diller.

In 2009, Match's UK and European operation was sold to French outfit meetic, but IAC came back in, taking a 81% stake in meetic in 2011. Rivalry in the sector is hotting up, and competitors - whether wholesome like eharmony or functional like shagaholic - are tilting at match.com's mass-market crown. But the bigger question is what will happen if Facebook decides to have a go at the singles scene?

The secret formula

 

Based on a 'freemium' model, Match.com is essentially an online version of the computer dating services of the 1980s. Its compatibility algorithms derive from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, itself based on the theories of Carl Jung, a system familiar to HR execs the world over.

The big difference is that, on the web, the numbers of potential partners are much greater, with proportionately higher success rates. Despite all the Jeremiahs who say that online dating is the last refuge of the socially, psychologically or hygienically challenged, it seems to work. One in three US marriages apparently can trace its roots to an online date, and nine million Brits log on to dating sites annually - 25% of whom are already married.

Don't mention

 

Mixing the internet and relationships was bound to get messy. Match has been sued in the US by a user who claimed to have been raped by a convicted sex offender she met on the site. And an unsuccessful lawsuit in Dallas last year claimed that at least half the company's user profiles are inactive or made up - something vigorously denied by match.com.

VITAL STATISTICS

Total number of match.com users since launch: c75 million

Estimated value of UK online dating market: £170m

Annual growth rate of UK online dating market: 6%

 

 


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