Anonymous matching is a matchmaking method facilitated by computer databases, in which each user confidentially selects people they are interested in dating and the computer identifies and reports matches to pairs of users who share a mutual attraction. The purpose is to allow people to initiate romantic relationships while avoiding the risk of embarrassment, awkwardness, and other negative consequences associated with unwanted romantic overtures and rejection. The general concept was patented on September 7, 1999 by David J. Blumberg and DoYouDo chief executive officer Gil S. Sudai, but several websites were already employing the methodology by that date, and thus apparently were allowed to continue using it. United States Patent 5,950,200 points out several potential flaws in traditional courtship and in conventional dating systems in which strangers meet online, promoting anonymous matching of friends and acquaintances as a better alternative:
Some of the most notable implementations of the idea have been:
- eCRUSH. launched Valentine's Day, 1999, is the most successful implementation of the concept. Targeted to the teen market, it has more than 1.6 million users and claims more than 600,000 legitimate matches.
- DoYOU2.com. The website's owner, DoYouDo, Inc., was incorporated 23 September 1999 and acquired by MatchNet in September 2000 in exchange for stock valued at $1,820,000. According to MatchNet's 2003 annual report, "The acquisition was made primarily for the purpose of acquiring the patent on this business model for future development."
- The LiveJournal Secret Crush meme. In mid-2003, a company named Anonymous Consulting created an online quiz called "Secret Crush Meme," which would provide each user with a chart showing who on their LiveJournal friends list had a crush on them, as well as what "kind" of crush they had (public, secret or ex). The quiz was designed to harvest crushes between LiveJournal users (hence the elaborate disclaimer). In October 2003, a new quiz, called "Secret Crush Meme 2: The Revenge of Secret Crush Meme," was released, which showed users how many crushes other users had on them, as well as what kind. There was a catch: For four dollars, the company would tell someone who had crushes on them. This created controversy between couples who listed other users as crushes as well as people getting ex-crushes when they felt they should have gotten public crushes, and much ethics debating. Finally a small PERL script was written and distributed to poison the database. Faced with attempts to poison the database from many different IP addresses, the project was shut down.
- SecretAdmirer.com. This service claims 100,000 successful matches. Salon.com called SecretAdmirer.com "the grandfather of the concept, launched in 1997." Its methodology is different from the others in that in order for a match to occur, the recipient must send emails out, rather than simply place names on a confidential list.
eCRUSH, DoYOU2.com, the LiveJournal Secret Crush meme, and SecretAdmirer.com are examples of anonymous matching services using viral marketing to increase their membership. Users are encouraged to send an anonymous email to their crush so that they will visit the site and enter their own crushes, facilitating a match. In the case of SecretAdmirer.com, the email is mandatory; this represents a more aggressive type of viral marketing.
At least one site, CrushLink, was accused by eCRUSH of sending spam emails disguised as crush notifications. According to a Salon article, "What makes SomeoneLikesYou and Crushlink different from the rest of the sites in the genre is this: they bait hopeful visitors to hand over as many e-mail addresses as possible by trading clues for e-mail addresses". Both sites are now defunct.
- Lester, Amelia A. and Borja, Anais A.: The Rise and Success of Sparknotes, The Harvard Crimson, 18 October 2001.
- Mieszkowski, Katharine: The bot who loved me, 7 August 2002.
- A Brief History of SparkNotes.
- United States Patent 5,950,200: Method and apparatus for detection of reciprocal interests or feelings and subsequent notification, United States Patent and Trademark Office, 7 September 1999.
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This article is based on "Anonymous matching" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Anonymous+matching&action=history