For what it is worth, here is a first impression of the new Planet Love Match dating site and business model.
The first point I’d make is that in many respects PLM, together with its sister sites goes some way toward the model outlined by many industry watchers over the last year or so as the future of internet dating.
What PLM and the other sites in the network are doing, by accident or design, is taking the social networking meme famous from Facebook, Linkedin, My Space and Twitter to the next level, a direction that thought leaders and entrepreneurs have identified as the next step – ‘niches’.
Even the most ardent supporters of using Facebook for dating would agree that it ain’t easy. Many, if not most users of Facebook for dating use ‘helper apps’ which are, in essence, dating sites with an interface to Facebook. The sites attempt to use Facebook as a source of clients rather than using Facebook as the medium and environment.
The problem with that approach is that the issue of data pimping – selling user data to 3rd parties as well as sharing with other Facebook members is not solved.
Planet Love Match is an early mover in the emerging trend toward nicheing and away from data pimpage. Users of the site(s) are expected to pay directly for the privilege. In return they are not bombarded by ads, invitations to prostitute their data and importuned to enable ‘apps’ to post on behalf of the users. User data is, to a much greater degree than with ‘free’ networking sites, protected and private.
Additionally, PLM’s users are all interested in the same thing – finding a new ‘romantic’ relationship. I know that when I go to PLM that the messages I receive will be, almost exclusively, from people with similar goals to myself. If I am more interested in general networking I move over to the ‘MyDot’ niche and if I have interests in star stalking I might wander over to the ‘Starcam’ niche. These latter being two of the niches that I understand will form part of a panoply of linked but separate niches where one can become a member of as many, or as few, communities as one chooses.
When Users join the service they are required to provide proof of identity by displaying photo ID at the same time as a webcam shot of the face. This can be further enhanced by use of verification using credit card purchase. It is not necessary to verify ID with a purchase but I guess that most users will, at some point, take this step.
It is obvious that the personal security of users has been considered in the design of the site. I do not comment about underlying security as I have no way to know about these issues, just as I do not on Facebook ET AL, but the overt systems seem effective. For example, although people verify their id with the site management one’s true ID info is kept private from other users unless it is explicitly shared. To this end, PLM uses a system they call ‘Safecall’ to enable people to talk to each other by phone without the caller needing to know the callee’s phone number.
As far as I can see there are no restrictions upon people’s choice to share personal contact info so one might conceivably make a contact on PLM and then move straight off and onto Skype or similar but, particularly if dealing internationally this might be more trouble than it is worth given features such as inbuilt translation of the site and and many of its communication features. This site is built from the ground up to encourage people seeking international relationships and to ensure that ALL members can interact on a basis of equality.
There are, apparently, some 50 different modes of communication ranging from video chat to the exchange of virtual gifts. Users can run blogs, share videos and photos have chat conversations and customise their own environment. This is not just a site to find a woman to marry but is also a site for true virtual dating and, from what I have seen may be the first best step in that direction. I can envisage spending time interacting with one special person for extended periods before (instead of) meeting in ‘real life’. The degree to which that happens will be up to the choices of those involved.
The site is obviously brand new and is thus a little empty but I can see already that quite a few agencies have taken the move to add the women on their rosters onto the site. My own experience has been that there has been some contact from these women to me, but nothing untoward or distasteful.
On a practical front there are a couple of issues, the first is that the page is very busy and really needs a large screen to deal with the available content. Using this on a netbook is not easy – there is a need for a ‘LoFi’ version where users can customise the content on the page to ease bandwidth and CPU/memory needs. Secondly the site is not in any way optimised for mobile use; this is connected to the first issue. Many people not in the USA use mobile phones as their primary internet access but the experience of dealing with one’s American love bunny from the screen of one’s Samsung Monte Android fone will be painful and frustrating and will encourage overseas users and USAians to migrate to more mobile friendly platforms quite quickly.
On the whole, I think that Planet Love Match is a good step down the path that I and a few other industry watchers identified as being ‘the next step’ for international dating/marriage sites. For sure the boundaries between dating internationally and dating locally have been very much blurred with PLM and that is a good thing