More on Match Group’s broken algorithms (OkCupid)

I’ve covered before on this blog how Match Group does not use information you give it about your ideal match when providing you with suggestions on its Plenty of Fish platform. Today, Saturday 29th May 2021 (this will be important to know in a little bit), I am going to talk about the algorithm on Match Group’s OkCupid platform, and give an example of how broken it is.

Do you remember when OkCupid used to tell you when a user was last online? It was a brilliant feature because it meant you could avoid wasting time messaging someone who would likely not reply because they were no longer using the site. For example, if a user had not been online in over a month, it was likely that they’d given up using the site for whatever reason, and you were unlikely to get a response, so it wasn’t worth your time messaging them (once you got over the delusional “what if my message brings them back to the site” phase). You could also narrow down searches (when you could search) for only users who’d been online within a set period of time (a day, a week, a month, etc), so you could avoid even clicking on potentially dead profiles, saving you time on having to read that information on their profile.

This feature, however, was bad for Match Group. It allows users to hide dead profiles, which shrinks OkCupid’s apparent userbase. With fewer known active users, other users put less time and effort into the site, possibly giving up on the site entirely, which shrinks the active userbase more. Many of my OkCupid (and Plenty of Fish) hiatuses were caused by how stagnant the place was. I would keep seeing the same people every day, with no new users, and it just got boring.

Removing information about when a user was last online allows Match Group to pass off dead profiles as active ones, which artificially inflates the apparent userbase. Showing dead profiles means that OkCupid is unlikely to run out of people to suggest you to in Discover (since you have to rely on OkCupid showing you people, instead of being able to look for the kind of people you want to look for).

“But, Frank, do you have any evidence of Match Group showing dead profiles?” I imagine you asking. Firstly: my name’s not Frank, and it’s not what either of the Fs in my name stand for. Secondly: yes. Yes, I do. I have conclusive evidence that Match Group feeds you long dead profiles in your swiping sessions.

Thursday 21st December 2017. This is the date that OkCupid died. It’s the definitive line between the cool, old OkCupid that we used to love, and the boring, Tinder-clone OkCupid that we hate. This was the date when OkCupid phased out pseudonyms. It was a massive overhaul that pissed a lot of people off. Users crafted their pseudonyms around their personalities, they identified as their pseudonyms, it was a part of who they were. On top of this, users often felt safer without having their real name on their profile. It can, however, give us a baseline, a bare minimum estimate of when a user was last online. Let me explain.

After the switch to real names, a user could no longer use special characters or numbers in their username. When a user logged in for the first time after the switch over, they were greeted by a screen telling them to change their name. If they didn’t change their name to remove numbers or special characters, they couldn’t use the site (trust me, I had to use FSFEightySeven for a while before giving up and using my real name). Thus, if you see anyone on OkCupid today with numbers or special characters in their username, they have not logged on since at least that date.

I give you T***19861.

This is a profile that OkCupid served me earlier today (Saturday 29th May 2021). As you can see, T***19861 has numbers in her username. This means that T***19861 has not used OkCupid in at least three and a half years.

It makes you wonder: if OkCupid are serving you clearly dead profiles that have been dead for over three and a half years, how many other profiles that you see in a swiping session are dead as well?

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