Ever since Inc. Magazine wrote that profile on Plenty of Fish, I have found dating websites totally intriguing. They take one of the life’s most difficult and unscientific problems and apply the web as a band-aid. They’re sometimes money-printing behemoths, and on occasion people do really find love through these sites. The market is insanely crowded, but the market for l-o-v-e, it would appear, can support nearly infinite entrants.
When my friends Bryan Muir and Alex Hsi told me they were doing some “research” on dating sites, I was all about it. Digging around in the world of dating sites is fascinating. I saw sites ranging from the high-brow-nerd-friendly (OKCupid) to the more sketchy borderline-porn-hookup sites like WouldYouHitThis.com. Many are derivations of earlier giants like HotOrNot and Match, but there are a lot of interesting and original concepts floating around as well.
However, I have yet to find someone who can adequately argue against the assertion that the real rulers of the online dating world are Facebook and MySpace. It seems that MySpace (and before that Friendster) is/was really the best dating site, mostly because it never defined itself as such, and thus escaped a lot of the stigma attached to calling yourself a “dating” site.
But the crop of borderline-digital-natives that built MySpace up to the giant it is (was?) I believe made a more deliberate distinction between the way that “flirting” functioned in the online and offline worlds. Remember – the MySpace power users were not the nerds who had been BBSing since back in the day, but mostly a bunch of normals whose offline life was probably more exciting than their online one (come to my concert! look at the club i am promoting!).
I think, though, that the tastemaker/power-user profile has changed. The new influentials in the world of social networking are the 18 year-olds whose sexting habits garner much attention, the ones who are the subject of histrionic laments about the effects of the internet on social development. For these true digital natives, the line between online and offline existence is much less discrete than even 5 years ago, and the idea of “socializing” on the web has become a huge blur of friending, connecting, poking, messaging, gifting, voting-up, etc. What happens when the “like button” appears next to people’s faces?
Since most people agree that MySpace is kinda done (erm, sorry MySpace), I was passively wondering about what will be the next MySpace-type site to emerge.
Full credit to Bryan and Alex for finding it, and for telling me almost nothing about it except that it was “the best.” Although TechCrunch describes it as “a social network popular in emerging markets like Russia and Brazil”, I think it’s much more than that. A summary:
- Badoo has 60+ million members in other countries, only a tiny fraction are in the U.S.
- Their customer acquisition emails are incredible. Imagine getting an email like this:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Badoo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, May 10, 2010 at 8:22 AM
Subject: You promised Badoo
A promise is a promise
You promised us yesterday that you would upload a photo today.
Upload photos of yourself now!
If clicking the links in this message does not work, copy and paste them into the address bar of your browser:
- They have, from what I can tell, implemented a lot of Zynga-like strategies to make their product appealing and addicting. They make good use of location and FB connect, and have an auto-bot that starts and contributes to conversations for you. The bot sends messages that look like they’re coming from other people, but really it’s just Badoo. No wonder it’s stuff that simultaneously improves the service. Example: “Hey Amanda! Are you really hiding from the police?? If not, please add a photo ”.
- They are rolling in cash. Raised a $30m series A back in 2008. Who raises a thirty million dollar series A? Yeah.
- Their business model is crazy interesting. Basically, you can pay to have your profile listed under “featured profiles”. Except you never enter a credit card, you just put in your cell number and they charge you through your mobile bill. Obscuring the flow of funds = sketchy but likely very effective. And having a featured profile does lead to a spike in profile views which creates a nice little ephemeral dopamine boost. “I’m blowing up on Badoo!”. That said, I am done with the featured profile section – the experience of females on any sort of social networking site, especially a borderline-sketchy one, is another post for another time.
So why is Badoo the next MySpace? I think their particular set of features is the right combination of appealing/compelling to a group of influentials who will propel more widespread adoption. While the site has started to get some traction in the U.S. my gut is that it will really spike in the near future. Could it be possible that a social site popular in a place other than the U.S. could make waves here? I think yes. Or at the very least, the site will continue to get clicks from me with its clever emails and temptations of short-lived fame.
Badoo, you’re the best.