Top U.S. matchmaking website says it used Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By , on July 29, 2014

OkCupid.comw ebsite homepage screenshot (Wikipedia photo)
OkCupid.comw ebsite homepage screenshot (Wikipedia photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – A leading U.S. matchmaking website, OkCupid intentionally mismatched users to test its technology.

This is what the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on Monday, on the heels of Facebook Inc.’s admission of having misled its users in a psychological study.

OkCupid’s co-founder Christian Rudder shared in a blog post entitled “We Experiment on Human Beings!”: “When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.”

On the other hand, couples who were advised that they were incompatible – despite OkCupid’s algorithm showing compatibility – were less likely to exchange four messages; the OkCupid benchmark for determining romantic interest.

Rudder explained that the tests helped the company fine-tune its product; although he did not respond to queries about how many users were tested.

“Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out,” he wrote in his blog post.

According to a spokeswoman for the IAC, OkCupid plans to conduct more of these experiments; also known in the industry as A/B testing.

Not everyone, however, agrees with such methods. Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at Santa Clara University pointed out that conducting experiments on users without their prior acceptance or approval may very possibly undermine the company’s credibility.

“They are messing with emotions and with communications. That’s different than other things we are A/B tested about,” she said.

The experiment was likewise highly criticized on social media.

Netizens may remember a similar situation in June, involving social media giant, Facebook. Users of the site were angered when a study showed that Facebook had influenced news feeds as an experiment on whether users’ posting habits were affected by viewing more positive or negative posts.

OkCupid ranks among the top five online dating services in the U.S.