Sam Yagan is co-founder and CEO of OkCupid.com, the fastest-growing free online dating service. Yagan was previously co-founder and CEO of TheSpark.com, maker of SparkNotes, and president of MetaMachine, which developed P2P file-sharing application eDonkey. He has also been vice president and general manager at Delias, and vice-president and publisher at Barnes & Noble.
Question: Is online dating changing us?
Sam Yagan: I think online dating will have an impact on the way people match up and ultimately marry and ultimately reproduce. I think... if you think about the pre-online dating world... in offline dating you’re limited in a bunch of ways. You’re limited, most importantly, by geography. Right? You’re only gonna interact with people that you’re close to. You’re also impacted by the sort of social effects. For example, you’re probably only hanging out with people of similar socioeconomic class, you’re probably hanging out with people of... or maybe of similar religion if it’s at your church or your synagogue, you’re hanging out with people who would look like you and who are very much are like you.
You might be at a bar with someone and you might... there might be someone... you might be at a bar with your friends and you might see someone that’s very different from the kind of person that you typically date, and you might not go an approach that person because you’re worried about what your friends are going to think. You’re worried that that’s not the kind of person that you’re expected to date.
At OKCupid, or in any online environment, that goes away. A) Nobody knows who you’re messaging; B) You can easily message someone who is five miles away, who is 10 miles away; C) You can send a message to someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t think like you, who is in different socioeconomic class because you’re not really... it’s a very safe environment. You’re just sending a message out there. Maybe you exchange messages. You’re still such a... you’re still not meeting in person and you still have that distance, that safety that you could feel okay experimenting with new types of people.
Question: What role will technology play in the future of dating?
Sam Yagan: First and foremost I think online dating is going to continue to become mainstream. And much like online shopping, just kind of drop the adjective, online, Amazon is now just shopping just like an offline retailer is. I think dating is going to have that same... is going to go that same way. So you’re not an online dater or an offline dater, you just use the web. You use technology to date just like you use technology to shop. So I think that distinction of online versus offline dating is going to go away.
I think inevitably, dating is going to become more mobile. The fact of the matter is that people are out and about when they want to date. If you’re out with friends, that’s a great time to meet new people. So we think that mobile is going to have a big impact, location-aware products and services are going to be out there helping people match up in more real time. But I also think that along with the mainstream... the mainstreamification of dating and the more mobility is going to make it an integral part of everyone’s life.
I’m not as bullish on video mostly because, at least in our current state, women tend not to like videos of themselves nearly as much as men do. Women tend to be much more self-conscious about themselves on video. So if you look at some of the sites that do offer video profiles and other video features, they tend to be much more used by men than by women. So that maybe something that evolves over time as technology changes. But right now, I don’t think video is nearly as important to the future of dating as mobile is.
Recorded on November 4, 2010
Interviewed by Teddy Sherrill
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler