Before the Internet erased all geographical barriers, people would meet their partners at school, work, or through a friend. Now, one in three people meets their partner online, making online dating one of the most lucrative industries in the world. According to Allied Market Research, the global online dating services market was valued at $6,400 million in 2017 and is on track to reach a whopping $9,202 million in 2025. Clearly, dating sites are here to stay, and, as many users have come to understand, quality standards have gotten much higher too.
For many years, online dating platforms didn't inspire too much trust, and people assumed they had a questionable user base. But today, consumer perception is much more positive, owing in part to the sheer popularity of these services. Chances are you already know someone who uses a service like this, or you've signed up for one yourself.
But what exactly do the owners of online dating services do to keep their users safe, and what technologies have helped them become so sophisticated?
The rise of specialized dating services
No matter who you are and what you like, your soulmate is somewhere out there waiting for you. You may not have had this impression about a decade ago when online dating sites were these overwhelmingly huge databases where you didn't know where to start looking.
The first change that online dating services incorporated were filters that allowed users to be more specific in their search. Not just gender-wise, but also in regards to other criteria, such as location, age, religion, height, weight, and so on. That narrowed down the results pretty well so that users were more likely to find profiles they were really interested in. According to data from Pew Research Center, the details that women find most important on an online dating profile include: photos of themselves, the type of relationship they're looking for, if they have kids, hobbies, religious beliefs, ethnicity, occupation, height, and political affiliation.
For many years, the market was dominated by a handful of big websites but, the more online dating services grew in value, the more the market started to diversify, and users got more specialized services. Nowadays, it's more and more common for people with specific tastes to join a smaller, niche platform than use the same service as everyone else because the services simply aren't relevant.
Take executives and millionaires, for instance. According to Kaspersky data, people that class themselves as the head of a company make up 11% of the total online dating population. For them, joining a dating service exclusively for affluent individuals is much more relevant, which explains the growing popularity of services like MillionaireMatch.com. And this is not the only example.
People have created dating platforms for non-binary individuals, expats, or simply people who share a unique passion, like reading, biking, or traveling. The biggest strength of specialized services is that everyone on the platform is on the same page, and the platform itself becomes a space where everyone feels at home, not in a minority.
People don't always present their true self online and, on a platform where you offer personal information, and you're supposed to find your soul mate, safety is a huge concern.
Kaspersky also found that, when it comes to safety, three things worry people the most:
● Their device being infected with malware via the dating platform
● Meeting someone with bad intentions online
● Having their data leaked by the dating platform
In addition, a growing percentage of users (58%) are worried that the people they meet online aren't who they say they are and lie about their age, gender, or status. Catfishing, as this practice is called, is becoming a major online phenomenon, but fortunately, dating platforms are working hard to fight it by verifying accounts. This is easier to do on a millionaire dating site because there's a small user base. Still, large platforms are starting to combat this issue too by allowing users to report questionable individuals. For example, Tinder has recently added a panic button that alerts emergency services and sends accurate location data.
As far as online safety is concerned, dating sites are slowly moving away from the advertising model. So, instead of working with businesses, they prefer paid upgrades, special features, and subscription revenue. And, in light of recent data breaches and unethical manipulation of user data, more and more people welcome the change.
Review websites had an important part to play here because they work hard on increasing awareness and informing users on what features they should be looking for when joining a dating platform. However, people should still be mindful of the fact that they need to be responsible with their data and apply common sense: never share intimate information with a stranger, don't send your credit card number or social security number to anyone, block and report anyone who shows signs of dangerous behavior, and, if you choose to meet someone you met online, do so in a public place.
How can Blockchain and AI transform online dating?
Blockchain and AI are two of the biggest disruptors for modern businesses, and by now, we've seen them revolutionize fields such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, and marketing. Why not online dating? Although not all platforms have adopted them at the same speed, we have interesting improvements to look forward to:
· Blockchain is a decentralized platform, and it can help make online dating platforms more secure, minimizing the risk of data breaches
- Dating platforms can use AI and machine learning to remember users' preferences and suggest personalized matches based on factors like locations, hobbies, interests, and profiles they've clicked on the most
· AI can be used to verify the user's identity and make sure they're not impersonating someone else. For example, after uploading a profile photo, the platform can ask them to take a few live selfies, which are not made public, and then compare all the images.
In the near future, Blockchain can become that perfect missing link, which increases trust and transparency, and makes dating platforms more secure and scam-free.