When Markus Frind sat down at his home computer in 2003 to build a website, the British Columbia Institute of Technology graduate had only one goal: to teach himself a programming language to help pad his résumé. But a decade later, his programming exercise has grown into one of the largest dating websites in the world, with more than 50 million registered users visiting Plenty of Fish more than 430 million times each month. In Canada alone, about 400,000 people log in every day.
With Valentine's Day coming up, PoF's founder and CEO spoke with The Globe and Mail about his website's success, the crucial element required to create an effective profile and the changing nature of online dating.
What's the key to having a successful online dating profile?
The key is to describe yourself but not go too long. Get down to the key points: what you're looking for, what type of person you are. Even more important, go out and message the types of people you like instead of waiting for millions of people to come message you.
What is the most common mistake that people make?
The most common mistake is that they don't put enough effort into their profile, or they don't clearly describe what they're looking for, or what they want. I think that comes down to a lot of people not really knowing what they want.
How does Plenty of Fish's matching system work?
We look at hundreds of thousands of people who left the site in relationships and we look at what combinations of attributes made them successful. For instance, we know that a doctor will never date a carpenter; it just doesn't happen in our system. We collect millions of those combinations of things that can never happen, and we basically eliminate all the people you wouldn't date.
How many relationships are formed through the site?
I don't have the latest stat, but it's over 600,000 a year, where people leave the site and they tell us. That's not including all the people that don't tell us.
Do you have any interesting or notable statistics that relate to Canada specifically?
It's pretty much the same across Canada, [although] Edmonton and Calgary, we have a lot of singles there, percentage-wise – higher than everywhere else. It's mostly because those are singles towns; with the oil boom and whatnot it's harder to meet people.
Valentine's Day is coming up. Does the site see any patterns, such as dips or spikes, over certain holidays?
Normally, we see a 15- or 20-per-cent increase from two days after Christmas and it goes all the way until the Wednesday after Valentine's Day. We see a huge surge in the number of people wanting to get dates, wanting to meet people [over the holidays]. We're sort of in the middle of our peak season now, and then the Wednesday after Valentine's Day it will go back to normal.
What have been the biggest changes to the site lately?
No one was using a mobile device [for Plenty of Fish, two years ago]. In the last year, about 60 per cent of our users now access the site from an Android or iPhone using our apps. All online dating is going to be mobile in the next year or so – that's the huge thing. We also launched top prospects a few weeks ago, which basically shows all the people you have communicated with and then we predict which one of those you're most likely to enter into a relationship with – and also stay in it.
Is it too early to say how successful that feature is?
We know it's successful because we're predicting based off the hundreds of thousands of people who already left the site in relationships. If 100 people message you, there is a 17-per-cent chance the single person that we pick is going to be the one you end up dating. It sounds really cool and everything, but when you think about it, we just go and eliminate all the people you don't date, and you're left with a very small pool of people we can pick from.
Have you heard of any weird stories or matches on the site?
I always think it's weird when people get matched up and married in two weeks or something.