Friendster and the Changing Face of Online Dating

Occasionally I find a topic that really polarizes many of my friends and colleagues. Lately, I have found that many of my friends and colleagues have very strong feelings about one Internet activity in particular — dating and dating services.

Is it just me or is public opinion on Internet dating changing? In the early days, it seemed that many who used Internet dating services were not particualrly open about the fact that they used them. Whatever stigma might have surrounded online dating is receding and it is now becoming a much more socially-accepted activity. There are two things that I think have really changed the landscape:

Services now emulate the way that many dating things happen in real life – New services, Friendster, in particular emulate the way in which offline dating actually works. People are accustomed to meeting and dating friends-of-friends and it is no suprise that services that enable people to identify and meet friends-of-friends are growing in popularity. Most of the earlier attempts at online dating were much closer to traditional print or online personal ads.

Catalyst for “niche dating” – The other big driver for online dating is that the Internet is probably the best way to find a particular community or niche when it comes to dating. There are ethnicity-based dating services such as J Date, dating services for the divorced, and dating services for people with strong interests in particular hobbies or activities. In the same way that eBay enabled hobbyists and collectors to connect and find each other, these niche dating services are allowing individuals with a preference for particular qualities in a mate connect with like-minded people.

Despite the PR progress that online dating has made, I know as many people who are firmly against as who think that it is a very reasonable way to meet people these days.