Online dating is a hard nut to crack. First of all, it’s a very personal process ported to a largely impersonal medium — and then there’s the creep factor. Next, it’s a big business, but a small set of names dominate mindshare. Sure, with size and scale comes revenue, but it also brings less appealing byproducts like noise, faked pictures, lazy filtering, inadequate profiles, and the difficulty of judging actual interest from spam or “virtual winking”.
People have become more comfortable with the idea of dating online, but they don’t want an experience that explicitly (and constantly) reminds them of what they’re doing. Instead, eDaters want to avoid overexposure, and experience “newness” by going beyond their immediate social graph. Although it may sound counterintuitive, a new site launching today called Circl.es wants to give date seekers that feeling of newness by tapping into one of the most familiar platforms … Facebook.
Yes, to access Circl.es, users sign up with Facebook. But, why would I want my online dating site to do that, you ask? Founder Justin Krause says he recognizes that people hate bringing Facebook into the dating equation, but it’s essential because it potentially solves a few big problems with online dating: Verifying your true identity, showing real pictures, and filtering out all of your Facebook friends, i.e. your social circle.
Leveraging Facebook trims the signup process down to a couple of minutes, it also allows Circles to show you real, public Facebook photos of single people around you, and the same stuff you would see were you to visit the social network normally. In other words you see their real name, basic info, mutual friends, photos, etc. (You can customize this in privacy settings.) This also saves you from having to create a new profile. And, hey, instant user density, because it’s Facebook, where even your cat has a profile!
That’s great for time-saving and identity verification, but the real kicker is that nobody on Facebook can see that you’re using Circles, the app never posts to your Wall or anywhere else — and you won’t see people you know. Plus, you get to sort by location, making it easy for busy people to find people close by.
Circles is also attempting to limit overexposure, as users are served Facebook “snapshots” of potential matches, and just click “yes,” “no,” or “skip.” If you click “yes,” both users are notified, Circles sends you both emails, and lets you take it from there. If you click no, you won’t see that snapshot again, and that person never sees your profile. Only the people you’re interested in get to view your profile. When you’ve browsed all the profiles, you hit a “You’ve Seen It All Page,” and that’s it.
Circles gives you two weeks to meet up with an interest before the match expires, which is plenty of time to start a conversation, says Krause. Expiring matches also prevent weeks of endless email reminders, notifications, and spam.
The Circles Founder thinks that there are three elements to a decent dating site: Simplicity, subtlety, and honesty. Do those well, and you may have something. Either way, he can be sure he’s not alone, as there are more than a few trying to oust the eHarmonies of the world, like a redesigned Nerve Dating, DuoDater, Meexo, Ignighter, Grindr, theComplete.me and Yoke — to name a few.
Both of the latter sites are utilizing Facebook to make the dating experience better. Yoke.me, which Josh covered in depth yesterday, has a lot in the way of data to recommend it. While theComplete.me lets you go anonymous, Yoke makes use of the APIs of content recommendation engines like Netflix, Amazon, and Echo Nest to drive its matching. It, too, avoids posting your activity to Facebook walls, or sharing your activity with your friends. The two dating sites are comparable, but Krause thinks that Circles may have a leg up in the way it filters your Facebook friends out of results, and doesn’t intrude on mutual friends to ask for introductions.
He also thinks that filtering people you’ve said “no” to out of future results will help people really hone in on the right match. But music is a big ice breaker, and Yoke compares users’ Spotify, Rdio, or MOG listening data against Echo Nest‘s graph of how popular musicians are clustered to suggest potential matches based on similar musical interests.
Both sites are appealing alternatives to OkCupid’s unstructured profile data, especially for the Facebook generation. There’s likely room for both even in the cluttered online dating space, as they offer variations on the same major theme, catering to two slightly different approaches to dating and matching you with your next special someone. That being said, they both need work on their designs.
Online dating is definitely broken, and Circles offers a step in the right direction. For more, check out Circles at home here.
What do you think?