These days in the romance game, it’s not the handsome charmer who wins the game; it’s the math nerd making all of the money from online matchmaking sites. Fast Company reports that the online dating market earns over $4 billion and the geeks able to master a successful matching algorithm get hired as consultants for the online-dating companies.
There’s got to be some science or math behind how people find compatible dates, and it takes some innovative math solving to put together the right a dating program that gets results.
Dr. Eli Finkel of Northwestern University is a specialist in behavioral sciences. Finkel denounces eHarmony, one of the largest dating sites in the world, as the company has yet to disclose its algorithm. Finkel asserts that if the company doesn’t make a scientific approach publicly, then it cannot prove that its system truly works as other sites have.
Dr. Pepper Schwartz, isn’t exactly a math geek, but she is an author, and has written “The Love Test,” “The Great Sex Weekend,” “Everything You Know About Love and Sex is Wrong,” and several others. Her Duet Total Compatibility System works on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, which is a questionnaire that measures how people see the world and make decisions. Schwartz’ system currently runs on PerfectMatch.com.
Sam Yagan, the co-founder of OKCupid.com a free dating site, won several awards for the second year in a row at the online-dating industry conference in Miami, FL. He was also among the matchmaker speakers who discussed their algorithm techniques. Last year Yagan and his partner Chris Coyne sold OKCupid.com to Match.com for $90 million.
Unlike other dating sites, OKCupid.com doesn’t require users to answer any questions, although the more questions a person answer, the better the site works for them. Questions are both vague and specific and for each the user will provide three answers (1) his/her own answer, (2) the answer the user will accept from a match and (3) how important that question is to the user. The user is then shown a “match percentage” based on the questions that both the user and the mate potentials have answered.
“Our objective is to figure out what you want, rather than figure out what’s best for you,” Coyne said at the conference.
Despite the pair’s success, Yagan denies that he could be considered a relationship guru.
“We’re a bunch of math guys,” Yagan told the Boston Globe in 2007. “We don’t know anything about dating.”