LJ posted a comment in the "Are There Any Legitimate Adult Dating Sites Left" blog post saying that "there are NO real dating sites left," and then discussed DatingSiteBuilder.com, which creates a site from scratch for anyone willing to pay their $29.95+ fee. I started to reply in the comments, but then thought this conversation deserved a blog post all its own. Especially since the original post about adult dating sites spoke more toward the difficulty in meeting real people as opposed to fake bots, whereas this discussion focuses more on the databases dating sites use to show they have a large membership.
Here's the thing: there are, literally, hundreds of companies providing similar services to DatingSiteBuilder.com. Anyone can buy a template dating site or dating site script. All it takes is some money (ranging from $20-several thousand, depending), a URL, and somewhere to host the site if the fee doesn't already cover web hosting space. That isn't to say that *all* dating sites use this tactic; most of the bigger players don't, i.e. PlentyOfFish, Match.com, OkCupid, eHarmony, etc.
To confuse matters even more, many of the larger dating sites buy up smaller sites, or start new dating sites that look different, but share the same database of singles or members. Case in point: an email from a reader earlier this week, who wanted to tell me that Fling.com, Adult Friend Finder and Friend Finder all share the same member list. How did she find out? She paid for one of the more adult dating sites and unknowingly emailed Friend Finder subscribers, who had no idea their profiles were being shown on the casual sex sister-sites. I have to admit the reader was a tad lucky; she didn't accidentally contact anyone from BigChurch, which is also owned by the same parent site, Penthouse.com. I'm not making fun of this reader, or anyone else who doesn't know it's common practice to "co-mingle" users from different sites. I'd be appalled if in the same situation, especially if I had moral convictions against BDSM (Alt.com, another Penthouse site) or casual sex (NoStringsAttached.com).
So what's a single person to do? One who wants to know the dating site they signed up for doesn't share databases with other companies they might not agree with, or want their information shared with? And, do any 'real' dating sites really exist anymore?
Let me use an example to show you. Match.com is a well-known dating site that owns many, many other dating sites. Most of the dating sites owned entirely by Match.com on their "Network" share a database. How can you tell? When you scroll down to the very bottom at Match.com, you'll see the company is owned by "People Media." Okay, so who are they? A quick Google search shows they are the parent company of Match.com, and others like BlackPeopleMeet.com. So I went to look at BlackPeopleMeet.com, and found out via their privacy page that, "Members of the Network Websites are part of the same online community and profiles on any Network Website are viewable on the other Network Websites and paying subscribers will be able to communicate with other paying subscribers on all Network Websites." There are only a few exceptions to this network sharing dealio, such as OkCupid (who was bought out by Match.com earlier this year, but last I heard, still keeps all of its management, layout and membership base separate from Match.com.)
If I haven't confused you entirely, I'd love to know: is it a problem for you if the dating site you use shares a database with other dating sites, even if those dating sites aren't something you'd normally want an association with? Do you think there aren't any 'real' dating sites left because of all this sharing, or...?