I’ve had many (according to my friends) wild, wonderful and morally dubious ideas about the future of dating sites and social networks over the past few years. Long before I pitched the idea that Qantas should build a social network from their frequent flyer program, I came up with the idea that dating sites should embrace all the social network tricks that have been successful on other sites.
Imagine a dating site that shows your social history (otherwise known as the social graph). Sites could map the social connections between people formed by their sexual relationships the same way Alice’s chart in The L Word does. Actually, that has been used to develop a social network.
Image from the New York Times.
I’d like to see the social recommendations from Amazon used in dating sites like RSVP.com.au, which could use the social graph to show dating recommendations. If you liked shagging A, you may like to shag B, C and D…
Dating sites could copy ratings and allow users to rate profiles and the people they represent, along with a cute symbol to suggest how much fun they are. This person rates three orgasms… [insert icon of 3 condoms here]. (Note: not very helpful icon for lesbians, but I mean no disrespect).
Information aggregation is powerful and its potential has barely been realised. The limiting factors at the moment are the social standards that determine what is socially appropriate. How much are we willing to reveal and share?
Research suggests that dating sites are becoming less popular as social networking sites like Facebook partially replace their function and also offer an alternate social experience. I think dating sites, which are built on the principle of restricting contact between members to ensure they pay for each transaction, will need to change and allow far more forms of interaction.
Being able to rate someone after having paid for the the introduction and having met in real life would be a significant change and a promising start. Aggregating the social graph in order to provide recommendations is a way of encouraging people to log in regularly, thus building traffic and making it more likely that users will click through to find, and make, new connections.
Perhaps the fear of being caught out cheating and lying and being rated poorly would also encourage greater honesty, which is often lacking in online transactions.