An Irish dating website that boasts numerous matches and 10 confirmed weddings of people who met through the site is about to pioneer Flash-based voice and video communications between lonely hearts, siliconrepublic.com has learned. The company Anotherfriend.com, is also looking to expand its business model into the central European market.
The company, established by Kevin Greene in 2001 at the height of the dotcom downturn, is trialling a Flash-based technology known as UserPlane that integrates voice and video that allows prospective partners to see one another on an opt-in basis.
He added the company is also investigating the use of location-based mobile services that will bring the online dating genre to the street, insofar as when people with similar profiles pass each other by a “meet for a coffee?” text message enters their phones. The company has also introduced a personality testing product on its site.
Since the company started, more than 85,000 Irish people have registered their profiles on Anotherfriend.com and on any given day the site has between 200 and 500 people online.
Greene explained the online dating business is becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace, with three main players dominating the Irish scene – the other two main players are RSVP, which is owned by BT Ireland, and Maybefriends.com, which is owned by Scottish Radio Holdings.
“We were lucky to get started in 2001 and we were one of the first online dating sites in Ireland and as a result we have an established user base. It’s a good market but an increasingly competitive one. There is at least one new dating entrant to the Irish market every month, but most of these disappear because they can’t get the numbers.”
Greene said as an e-commerce market, the online dating scene is evincing a similar growth trajectory to genres such as gambling. “As an online spending category, online dating accounts for 28.9pc of all online spending in the US today.”
Internationally, the appetite for online dating is growing and with the US market saturated, providers of these services are looking overseas for opportunities.
In one instance, three Irish brothers based in Australia have sold a dating website for close to Aus$40m. It is understood Dublin businessman Stephen Mulcahy has realised a rumoured €9.6m in the sale of his Rsvp.com.au online dating service to the Fairfax Media Group, owners of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mulcahy’s 10-year-old website, which claims more than 600,000 members, fetched a total price of Aus$38.9m. Mulcahy is son of John Mulcahy, founder of The Phoenix magazine. His brothers Jack and Aengus are also thought to have made several million each in the deal.
Kevin Greene would not disclose the company’s revenues but confirmed the company is profitable and it is self-funded.
He also said Ireland is a natural scene for the online dating market due to the high proportion of single people amongst Ireland’s population. According to the 2002 census, 42.5pc of the population more than 18 are single and 10.4pc of the market are widowed, separated or divorced. According to a Treasury Holdings report, singles make up 60pc of the Dublin population alone. A recent RTÉ news report estimated by 2007 in Ireland, six out of 10 singles would look for love online.
Greene confirmed attitudes towards online dating are changing in Ireland and the subject is less taboo. “Initially when we started off in 2001 there was an element of embarrassment associated with it, but attitudes are changing. We are about five years behind the US in terms of our outlook on online dating, where online dating is the No 2 way of meeting people outside of family and friends. But in Ireland it is becoming less taboo. For example, people are more willing to put up photographs now.”
Also, Greene said, the site’s success rate in terms of matching up partners has already yielded 10 confirmed weddings. “Those are the ones we can definitely confirm but we are hearing through the grapevine about people who met and married through the site so we reckon there could be as many as 20 weddings.”
By John Kennedy