Late last month, OkCupid announced a fairly fundamental change to its dating service: the company would no longer allow users to see visitors to their profile. And as of today, that change has been implemented across both OkCupid’s website and smartphone apps. The visitor section, which kept track of visitors to your profile and also profiles that you’d recently browsed, is gone.
In a blog post, OkCupid claimed that “a positive beta test” is what led to the removal of the visitors section. “Without the distraction of visitors, you can now focus on the people who like what they see on your profile and really want to get to know you,” the company reasoned. “And when you’re focused on those people, your chances of higher quality connections improves.” But almost immediately, OkCupid ran into negative feedback from both free and paying customers.
To understand why some people are upset with this decision, let’s conduct a quick refresher on how OkCupid works:
- You fill out a profile to reflect your best self and your interests. You answer a bunch of questions that revolve around dating, ethics, lifestyle, sex, religion, and more. OkCupid’s algorithm uses those answers to generate a match percentage between you and other users of the service. That match percentage is a measure of how well you might get along with someone — but there are no guarantees.
- OkCupid predates Tinder by nearly a decade, so the philosophy is different. It’s easier to filter and rank people by mutual interests instead of just swiping in hopes of finding a good match. That’s helpful. But you can also message anyone on the service regardless of whether they’ve liked your profile or expressed any interest. Maybe that last part’s not always so great.
- If someone likes your profile and you like theirs, you’ll both be notified. That’s free. But if you want to see everyone who has liked your profile, that requires subscribing to OkCupid’s A-List add-on ($20 per month).
- Before this change, OkCupid would notify you of visitors to your dating profile and keep a running log of who had visited. This was part of the free service and could be used as a workaround to see who might’ve liked your profile without having to pay for A-List.
- As another perk of paying a monthly fee for a dating app, A-List subscribers had the option of “invisible browsing,” which allowed them to visit profiles without appearing in that person’s visitor list. But free users couldn’t do that; they always showed up. Even with invisible browsing switched on, paying OkCupid users could choose to appear in someone’s visitor list if they really felt a need to signal... well, whatever it was that a visit meant. But since the visitors section no longer exists, neither does invisible browsing.
And so that brings us to the revised approach. An email that OkCupid sent out last week was a little more assertive on the subject. “What’s the value of a visitor? Short answer: zero.” The email went on: “you can now connect with even more people because you don’t have to feel shy about showing up as a visitor — and neither do they.” OkCupid says this decision allows for “awkward-free profile perusal.”
That’s a reasonable stance, sure. My friend Erin, a 30-something designer in Brooklyn, thinks it’s a better way to go overall. “I frequently would not even look at someone's profile after they sent me a message unless I thought I was really gonna like them because they'd see that I did,” she told me. “But now I can.” There’s a flip-side, though. She followed that up by saying “The only weird thing is that one guy who checked my profile like dozens of times a day, and now I can't keep tabs on how much he's creeping on me. But I guess I can just block.” That concern — of being unable to realize when someone is frequenting your profile to an alarming extent — carries over to the comments on OkCupid’s blog post from yesterday.
But the most resounding and vehement response from customers is that this is just a thinly-disguised money grab. OkCupid is being chastised on its blog and Facebook page — in comment after comment — as having done all of this just to get more people moved over to the paid A-List tier.
Others have a different request: show us the data that led to this. OkCupid has made a habit of publishing data — equal parts interesting and amusing — about the online dating
hellscape landscape, and the company might be compelled to do that here in response to all this negative pushback. It probably should’ve done that in the first place.
As the visitors section gets tossed aside, OkCupid has recently been adding new app features designed to prod users along towards actually sending a first message. And the company is taking blatant steps to help people formulate something that takes a little more brain power than “hey.” You can now comment on profile photos and even specific sections of someone’s profile. These are similar to regular messages but with the context attached.
And just today, OkCupid introduced what it’s calling a “Member Pledge” that users must agree to before sending messages with the app or website. Members of the service “must first agree not to send any harassing or unwanted, sexually explicit messages” before engaging with other people. Accounts that do so will be banned. “If you wouldn’t say something to a person you just met at a bar, you shouldn’t be saying it online,” said company CEO Elie Seidman.