In a bid to refine the formula for finding love, online dating site OkCupid admitted to altering thousands of user profiles in a series of experiment including regularly pairing up seemingly mismatched people with fake statistics about how compatible they were.
The revelations came on the heels of criticism of Facebook admitting to misleading users with posts to see how it influenced emotions of its users. In early 2012, the social network altered the content in the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users, with some of them being shown a higher number of positive posts, while other users were shown more negative posts. While users in the positive group responded with more upbeat posts, users with negative posts were more likely to produce negative content.
The Internet conglomerate IAC /InterActive Corp service, which owns OkCupid offers its users a compatibility score based on how they respond to a series of questions on the site.
Christian Rudder, one of the founders of OKCupid, wrote an alluring blog post called "We Experiment On Human Beings!" to lay out three different experiments the dating site conducted on its users without seeking their permission.
"Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site," Rudder said. "That's how websites work."
In the compatibility experiment, with users who were just 30% compatible, a message from one user to another OKCupid user actually led to a conversation only 10% of the time. However, when OkCupid duped users by inflating percentage scores when they actually had low compatibility, telling them that their compatibility score was 60 or 90%, unsurprisingly they had a 17% chance of having an online conversation. The experiment worked in another way also. When users with over with 90% compatibility were told that their compatibility figure was only 30%, the chances of a conversation reduced from 20% to 16%.
Early on, they conducted an experiment called Love is Blind, which involved missing or removed profile photos for seven hours. The online dating site found that people responded to first messages 44 percent more often, had deeper conversations and contact information were exchanged quicker. However, when photos were restored, conversations dropped off concluding that looks do in fact matter on an online dating service.
With over one million users who log in every day, OkCupid has nearly 30 million active users.