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The Short Version: In March 2004, four math majors launched OkCupid and reimagined how dating websites introduce people. They gathered exhaustive data on their members and used it to quantify personality and calculate compatibility in a match percentage. Over a decade later, the OkCupid team’s experimentation, innovation, and enthusiasm have yielded phenomenal results, turning prospected data into date prospects for millions of singles — for free! From simple data points, such as whether you like beer, the site extrapolates key personality traits, comparatively assesses your profile, and applies their findings to sort and match the over 30 million people on the dating site in a uniquely effective way.
January was just getting under way when an old college friend texted me: “My New Year’s resolution is to get you to join OkCupid with me.” Totally out of the blue. When I asked him why, he explained he wanted to go through the endless list of questions together, just for fun. “Think of the deep conversations we could have!” he said. I dismissed the idea, but he was persistent, and, after about a month of nagging, I caved. After all, it was free to sign up, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
We created our profiles on OkCupid on a Sunday night, spending a good two hours answering more than 300 questions about our likes, dislikes, habits, and values. I found out he disagrees with the statement “Art is important to my life,” and he found out I’m strongly opposed to dating a cat person. We ended up with a match rating of 87% (and 11% enemy).
If you think this is the part of the story where we realized we were a perfect fit and walked off into the online dating sunset together, you’ve probably watched “When Harry Met Sally” one too many times. It was purely platonic fun on a dating site. However, when we compared notes a month later, I was surprised to learn we’d both kept our profiles active and gone on more than a dozen dates between us because of OkCupid’s match formula.
Since the site’s launch in 2004, OkCupid has collected a staggering amount of personal data and essentially turned love into a numbers game. Every day, OkCupid members send over 7 million messages to one another, giving the site valuable information about how people communicate online. The more their members interact, the more targeted predictions the algorithm can make about potential romantic partners.
By studying the behavior, word choice, and questionnaires of OkCupid members, the site’s team of self-proclaimed math nerds find correlations between seemingly random data points — like how the number of words you use in your profile correlates to the likelihood that someone will respond to your message.
OkCupid leads the way in the dating industry with smart algorithms to support singles online. Their three guiding principles to running the site: use math to find patterns of attraction, offer every member free messaging forever, and welcome people of all backgrounds, orientations, and beliefs.
According to the site, “We work hard to make OkCupid the irreverent yet reliable service you’ve come to know.” With authority and integrity, this well-known dating brand makes it easier for anyone to find friendship, romance, and love on the Internet.
Is math the key to finding true love? It is on OkCupid. At their core, this site was built to sort data and pinpoint commonality in an easy-to-understand format. The team uses math in the name of love, according to the site, doing “a lot of crazy math stuff to help people connect faster.”
When setting up their profiles, singles can answer as many questions as they want (the average member answers about 250 questions) on topics ranging from their religious beliefs to their stance on sex. It’s multiple choice, with typically three or four options, but you can add a comment to qualify your answer in your own words. The more you answer, the more accurately OkCupid can predict attraction.
As you go through OkCupid’s bottomless questionnaire, you also select what answer choice(s) you’d accept from a potential date and how important their answer is to you. This forms the foundation of your compatibility ratings, which is displayed overall and by category (Dating, Sex, Lifestyle, Religion, and Other). Another useful feature is the ability to sort a profile’s questions by “Important to me” or “Unacceptable answers” so you can see right away where you agree and where you disagree.
In compiling your answers, OkCupid posts your personality breakdown to sum up your dominant characteristics. This shows how you compare with the average person of your age and gender, highlighting any notable variances (e.g., More Rational, Less Trusting, More Love-Driven). The site could label you More Liberal, for instance, if you consistently answer social issues like a tree-hugging peacenik. This fun feature offers a concise first impression for online daters looking for certainty in uncertain terrain.
Paying tribute to their data-mining roots, the OKTrends blog is an educative force in the online dating world. Launched in 2009, the blog crunches the numbers and offers insights to help singles improve their dating life online. Backed by millions of data points and more than a decade of experience in the industry, these articles carefully examine, by the numbers, the best and worst practices on OkCupid.
From how race relations affect dating to the best words to use in a first message, the blog provides an exhaustive analysis on how people are using the site to find dates. It reads like a behind-the-scenes look at dating trends and a thoughtful unveiling of the human psyche.
“We experiment on human beings!” Co-Founder Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post. “By all our measures, the ‘match percentage’ we calculate for users is very good at predicting relationships. It correlates with message success, conversation length, whether people actually exchange contact information, and so on.”
OkCupid has made a groundbreaking promise to remain always, totally, completely free for all members. You can send as many messages to as many people as often as you like. Write a novel to your love interest, if you like. There are no character limits, no strings attached, no time restraints — just forever-free features on this dating site.
Not many big-name dating websites can say the same. OkCupid separates themselves from other general dating websites by their commitment to place the interests of their users first and never charge for browsing and chatting on the site. There are some paid features for members who want to boost their visibility or message someone whose inbox is full, but these are completely optional. You can be a free member indefinitely and find dates on OkCupid’s app or website.
This works out well for young daters because many of them are both single and poor, so a free dating network is ideally suited to their needs. OkCupid has attracted a vast database of over 30 million users thanks to their promise to remain 100% free for all time.
When you sign up for OkCupid, you aren’t restricted to simply “man seeking woman” or “woman seeking man.” In fact, the orientation options include several identifications — including straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, homoflexible, queer, questioning, and more — allowing men and women to proudly show who they are without limit. You can select up to five orientation identifiers, so, go nuts.
By opening up polyamory options to their members, OkCupid broke down barriers for LGBTQ singles and championed the rainbow of sexuality in the dating world. The dating site welcomes a diverse membership of people in search of relationships of all shapes and sizes. Their layout is inclusive, friendly, and judgment-free.
“Find the relationship of your dreams, a one-night stand, a sham marriage (we’re not judging),” reads the OkCupid About page. “We don’t care what you do, just don’t be a jerk about it.”
I may have joined OkCupid under duress, hounded by daily text messages from a friend, but as soon as I saw how the dating site was laid out, I was a total convert. There’s so much to love about the forever-free website, from keyword browsing (I want a profile who describes himself as “doctor” and “generous,” please) to unlimited messaging (no dating site can constrain my verbosity).
Daters are set free to flirt in an open environment that uses math shortcuts to ease the dating process. OkCupid’s burgeoning membership — over 1 million singles install the app every week — is testament to their supportive features, welcoming atmosphere, and effective matching algorithm.
“Data is the key to sorting through all of these people,” maintained Sam Yagan, one of the four Co-Founders of OkCupid, in an interview with Digiday.
OkCupid is all about bringing people together, learning what makes them tick, and making love statistically inevitable. You can give it a try for free — signing up takes only two minutes — and find out how you match up with millions of singles online. The data-rich website quantifies your dating options and directs your attention to people who can connect with you on a deeper level. Because, in the equation of romance, your personality is the most important factor of all.
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