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Badoo, a site that requires users to log in via Facebook, actually has a running ticker tallying God-knows-what-exactly on its home page: “122,731,621 people are already here! Surf over to Plentyof Fish and you’ll see this claim at the top of the page: “More dates, more relationships than any other dating site.” That’s eerily similar to Match.com’s ubiquitous campaign (which I notice during marathons of the TLC bridal show Say Yes to the Dress and, oddly, Hoarding: Buried Alive): “More dates, more relationships and more marriages than any other site.” Back in April, Frind wrote on his blog that “Po F is probably #1 in terms of marriages now.” But when I ask him about this in person, he hedges: “The way I measure it is not scientific,” he admits.“But we look at the number of people who say they’re entering into relationships when they leave the site, and then, to get a ballpark figure, you take 12.5%—supposedly, that’s the percentage of relationships that end in marriages.” One can only verify this measure of worldwide domination, he concedes, by “doing a massive study,” but he points to the absence of one.It irks Frind that a recent Financial Times piece gave props for enabling 1.2 billion e-mail exchanges over the past six years.He declares that Plentyof Fish users send 5.5 billion e-mail messages to one another in a single year. For starters, comparing Plentyof Fish’s five million regular users and Match.com’s 1.9 million subscribers isn’t exactly apples to apples, since the former is a free site, and the latter is not.And the online personals game is not unlike the news industry, in that a great deal of time is spent locating the precise figures to convince both users and advertisers that one’s particular product is the strongest.Several dating sites claim to be the most successful, citing any number of criteria—frequency of dates per user, number of marriages, number of “connections” the site has facilitated.And so it was that, on a Sunday in May, Plentyof Fish hit a record 6.2 million log-ins in a single day.
In person, it’s hard to believe that Frind is remotely incredulous about his triumphs.
He speaks quietly but with unwavering conviction, making little shrugs as if to signal facts I should already know—the gesture equivalent of “aber natürlich,” the German “but of course.” And he is swiftly dismissive of his rivals: “Oh, we left them in the dust long ago,” he crows.
According to the media tracker com Score, Plentyof Fish draws a staggering 2.8 billion page views per month, compared to 723 million for Match.com, and has 6.3 million unique visitors, about the same as its Dallas-based arch-nemesis.
But evidently, the shirt is to Frind what the Adidas shower shoe is to Mark Zuckerberg. With just a diploma in computer systems from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Frind—the son of German farmers—has applied his prodigious talents to Plentyof Fish.com, the free dating website he founded in 2003 on his home PC. We are inside his company’s glass-walled boardroom, like specimens in an aquarium: a long, thin sturgeon (Frind) and a pufferfish (me).
Today, it’s the most popular such site in the country, and a top global concern—a business that relies on advertisers (most of them his competitors) reaching millions of people looking for love. He sits with his back to his workforce, 20 or so young techie types in jeans and sneakers, hunched over their keyboards, their knotted eyebrows signalling their intent to be productive—but not too productive.