Guardian Soulmates didn’t have a ‘secret sauce’, but it brought together people who read the same newspaper. ‘What people wanted was demographic, not psychographic assistance,’ says Thombre.
There was no way that Match and e Harmony, the frumpy juggernauts of internet dating, could satisfy the myriad tribes of humanity. JDate brought together Jewish singles, with profiles often written by their mothers. Farmers, dog lovers, herpes sufferers, fitness freaks – you name it, there was a dating site dedicated to it. But let’s be honest, for Generation X it was a case of needs must.
(This year, the site was forced to take down a question that poked cruel fun at people with learning disabilities.) It was more like a game than a dating website, and it had tick boxes for things like recreational drug use and recreational bisexuality (heteroflexibility).
OK Cupid was fast, kind of nasty and more about hook-up sex than e Harmony’s soft-focus hopes of marriage and love.
Unlike the hook-up, ‘The One’ is a sweet and nice idea, and this is what e Harmony promised to find – if you paid them money and answered 400 questions.
Started by an evangelical Christian in 2000, ‘it was the first to dig deeper, with richer psychometric profiling and the promise of a special sauce – an algorithm that judged who was right or wrong for you’, says Thombre.
At one such show earlier this month Matthew - who is a New York Times best-selling author, love expert for The Today Show and columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine - was asked how a girl should respond when she’s asked, after four or five months of dating, to contribute to the dinner bill. “I will always treat my partner how I would treat my best friend. I’d say ‘let’s be team mates here in whatever way we can’.
“Because I’d say ‘this is the most polite they’re going to be, and they’re not even paying now’.
You uploaded some words about yourself, often bordering on essay length, and sat back and waited for an email.
‘Tech just allowed you to place an ad,’ says Amarnath Thombre, chief strategy officer of the Match Group.
The fast-growing web community was no longer a village. What was then called online dating was always an awkward and devastatingly uncool way to find some approximation of love.
But 2004 was the year that online dating started to shed its loser reputation.
We just used big data to look at what we could learn about people,’ Thombre adds.