Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Changes at Plenty of Fish

Every now and then, I get an email in my POF inbox from "Markus." Markus is the creator of Plenty of Fish - one of the largest online dating communties in the world. The site is completely free (though there are upgrades available for a ridiculously small monthly fee) and is actually the way I've met the nicest of any of my dates.

So the other day, I got an email from Markus, and I just had to share the highlights (the email has been edited for length and grammar - sorry Markus).
When I created POF, I wanted it to be all about finding relationships with the right person. For the first 7 years this worked really well.... Today about 70% of POF use is via the mobile app and unfortunately about 2% of men started to use POF as more of a hookup site mostly due the the casual nature of cell phone use.
In sticking with my vision that POF is all about Relationships, I'm going to make a bunch of changes to ensure it stays a relationship-focused site.
  • Any first contact between users that contains sexual references will not be sent. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will be deleted without warning. This rule has actually been in effect since last month and it's made the site so much better.
  • You can only contact people +/- 14 years of your age. There is no reason for a 50 year old man to contact an 18 year old women. The majority of messages sent outside those age ranges are all about hookups. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will get deleted.
  • Intimate Encounters will go away in the next few months. There are 3.3 Million people who use the site every day; of those there are only 6,041 single women looking for Intimate Encounters. Of those 6,041 women, the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women. Intimate Encounters on POF can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women.
In short the vast majority of people will not be impacted.  This is because the vast majority of people are not going around spamming women saying "let's have sex tonight". I can't change POF alone, I need your help to get the word out there that POF is all about relationships!
I love Markus' idea. If it's just sex you're after, there are sites specifically geared for that purpose (and actually, they advertise on POF, so you can navigate quickly). I do have to say - I'd be curious how POF arrived at that 2% figure. I think the number of men using POF for hookups is much higher. From what I hear from the guys I talk with, the same is true of women on the site.

Eliminating "intimate encounters" should be enough to encourage relationships over casual sex. Markus, and POF, should be aware that people everywhere find ways to use online dating for sex. I've been approached for casual sex on - which is supposedly all about relationships.

My point is - it's their site, their platform, their business. They can run it however they see fit. In my opinion, trying to discourage casual hookups is the right place to start - and probably end. I think monitoring first contacts and limiting age criteria is a little overboard and probably unnecessary.

POF already has a setting that allows users to manage who can send them a message. So why not let users decide if they want to receive messages from people much older or younger? Why not let users report messages that are inappropriate, or profiles that are obviously all about sex?

Markus says it himself - he can't change POF alone. Online dating sites are just like any other social networking site - eventually, it's the users who define the community. Rather than spending time and resources to play hall monitor, POF might be better served teaching its users what they can do to improve their own experience.


  1. Honestly, I think that's great... maybe a little crazy as to the age range thing... But, he's kind of right... Why a 50 year old person would want to chat with an 18 year old person, BOGGLES THE MIND.

    It's good to know that the administrators of these websites take pride in their site, and are trying to keep it as "clean" as possible.


  2. I like the idea of initial emails with just sex in mind being deleted and I like doing away with the "intimate encounters" option. They age thing seems a little hokey though. Men, and I suppose women, will still lie and say they want a relationship when all they want is sex - but hey, POF is trying and that's a start!

  3. Women can set their filters to avoid unwanted messages... to force it on women is an insult to women's abilities to manage themselves and decide what to reply to do or not... what to block or not... what a controlling hubby he would make.