I've had a handful of emails over the past few days asking me to remove Plenty of Fish from the top free dating sites list. Why? Because owner Markus Frind has decided to start offering a new paid feature on the site, one that signals 'intent' and 'seriousness' to other users.
Essentially, anyone (if they can find the page that outlines the new feature) can sign up for a Serious Member badge, which is housed on the paid member's profile. It also highlights Serious Members in yellow throughout all search results, so that other singles can quickly identify one's intentions. Fees for the service range from $5.95 a month when purchased as a year-long package to almost $10 a month as a three month package.
Will this feature be heavily adopted? Only time will tell. But like many other online trust signaling mechanisms, it'll require a larger body of users to work. Frind predicts that male users will receive nine times the amount of first contact emails from women, and women will in turn get 40% more first contacts themselves. Again, only time will tell.
But does this mean that POF is no longer a free dating site? In my opinion, no. Unpaid members still have full access to the site, and paying doesn't give them any extra features, just some yet-to-be-proven benefits. But it won't take much for this model to turn into a paid dating site, I'll readily admit that. And once that happens, I'll gladly take Plenty of Fish off the freebie list.