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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dating applications hit it off with social networking sites

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Are You Interested app for Facebook, left, lets you browse through singles in your area. Zoosk, below, is a social dating site that recently hit the 20 million-user mark.

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Get ready. The free-market entrepreneurs of the world have figured out the next big way to make money off your dating life.

"Social dating" is the industry term.

And if that sounds like a return to the junior-high-style group dates to the movies well, you wish.

Instead, it is a natural extension of something you're probably doing already: connecting with people on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

We all know it would take gumption to strike up communication with someone interesting if a mutual friend hadn't greased the wheels with an introduction. Also, people don't have access to all the interesting folks outside their network of friends.

But voila. Software coders have come to the rescue with applications that work within these social networking sites to enable people to meet potential dates. And the apps' growth thus far has been pretty phenomenal.

One company, Zoosk, is adding 100,000 users a day, according to co-founder Shayan Zadeh, and recently hit the 20 million user mark.

Once you sign up for the program, the service matches you with a handful of candidates in your area. That much is free, but refining your preferences and gaining access to the full pool of Zoosk users costs $25 a month.

A rival service, Are You Interested, is powered by a publicly traded company called Snap Interactive that said its ad-generated revenue topped $1 million in the fourth quarter of last year. Snap says it has more than 16 million users, who express interest in each other after seeing profile pictures and if the interest is mutual proceed on their own from there. The service is free.

So far, a majority of "social dating" users have been in their 20s, but Dave Evans, a consultant in the online dating industry, expects that to change as older people continue to sign on to social networks. All of that, he says, will turn the services into serious rivals to traditional online dating sites.

Perfect, right? Facebook can now be your constant procrastination agent and your digital date generator.