“Abstinence ... Animal rights ... Very conservative ... Marijuana OK ... Children should be given guidelines ... Religion guides my life ... Make charitable contributions ... Would initiate hugs if I wasn’t so shy ... Enjoy a good argument ... Have to-do lists that seldom get done ... Sweet food, baked goods ... Artificial or missing limbs ... Over 300 pounds ... Drag ... Exploring my orientation ... Women should pay.”
By the fall of 1994, Gary Kremen was working toward launching the first dating site online, Match.com. There was another four-letter word for love, he knew, and it was data, the stuff he would use to match people. No one had done this, so he had to start from scratch, drawing on instinct and his own dating experience.
Generating data—based on the interests of a person in categories such as the ones he was typing out on his PC (“Mice/gerbils or similar ... Smooth torso/not-hairy body”)—would be the key to the success of Match; it was what would distinguish electronic dating from all other forms. He could gather data about each client—attributes, interests, desires for mates—and then compare them with other clients to make matches. With a computer and the internet, he could eliminate the inefficiencies of thousands of years of analog dating: the shyness, the missed cues, the posturing. He would provide customers with a questionnaire, generate a series of answers, then pair up daters based on how well their preferences aligned.
Kremen started from his own experience—putting down the attributes that mattered to him: education, style of humor, occupation, and so on. With the help of others, the headings on the list grew—religious identity/observance, behavior/thinking—along with subcategories, including 14 alone under the heading of “Active role in political/social movements” (“Free international trade ... gender equality”). Before long, there were more than 75 categories of questions, including one devoted to sex—down to the most specific of interests (including a subcategory of “muscle” fetishes).