Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are gone. So is Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison.
They're all no longer billionaire bachelors.
But don't fear. If a high-net-worth mate is your ideal, a plethora of dating sites offer an inventory of men who say they earn at least six figures annually. You can troll sites such as Match.com' target='_blank'>MillionaireMatch.com, Sugardaddie.com, DateAMillionaire.com or the humorous Marry-An-Ugly-Millionaire-Online-Dating-Agency.com to find deep pockets. (Men seeking sugar mamas on these sites typically have fewer choices because profiles of wealthy men tend to outnumber profiles of wealthy women.)
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Sure, these find-a-rich-guy sites might sound dubious, but they insist they provide a valuable service to wealthy people who are too busy running businesses to hang out at bars, clubs and other social venues. "It's a matter of convenience," says Steven Pasternack, chief executive of Miami-based Sugardaddie.com. "These guys work a lot of hours. It's very convenient to sit in your office and look through a catalogue of women" on your computer. Lucky them.
It's also cheaper than traditional matchmakers. For instance, both Sugardaddie and MillionaireMatch charge members about $20 a month, while high-end matchmakers charge clients thousands of dollars.
The sites also claim to have higher-profile members, such as CEOs, celebrities and major sports figures, than broad-based sites such as Match.com and eHarmony. For instance, actor Charlie Sheen was a member of MillionaireMatch for a few months. Steve Kasper, marketing vice president at San Jose, Calif.-based MillionaireMatch, says the company never reveals the identity of its members, and that Sheen was outed by another member.
In addition to millionaire dating sites, myriad other niche sites abound. Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Spark Networks operates 30 special-interest dating sites, including the popular JDate.com for Jewish singles, BlackSingles.com and ChristianMingle.com.
True.com's niche is safety in online dating. The Dallas-based site screens members and boots off those with criminal backgrounds. "I can guarantee criminals will be sorry if they get into our site," said Chief Executive Herb Vest. "We turn them in to the feds and we go to the trouble of turning them in to their state parole boards. We also sue some who lied about their criminal background." True.com also kicks out married folks posing as singles.
Online dating giants such as Match.com and eHarmony say it's usually best to take into consideration many factors, not just one, in finding a partner. "Any time there's a site where people are looking for one attribute, [a lasting relationship] isn't realistic," says Janet Siroto, editorial director at Dallas-based Match.com.
While Match.com and eHarmony are two of the most popular dating sites in the US, China's QQ.com Love is the No. 1 ranked dating site in Asia. Meetic.com and be2 are No. 1 and 2 in Europe, and Amigos.com is second only to MSN in Latin America, according to comScore. "The stigma of online dating has completely evaporated," said Egon Smola, general manager of Yahoo! Personals. "So many people have told me they've met someone online."
While options abound in online dating, the number of U.S. visitors to dating sites has fallen steadily from a peak of 21 per cent of all Internet users in 2003 to 10 per cent in 2006, according to JupiterResearch. The technology-research firm said the industry hasn't been able to convince the public that dating sites have high-quality members and that they're safe places to share personal information.
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Despite the drop in visitors, online-dating industry revenues have grown as companies raised monthly membership fees and membership lengths increase. Total US industry revenues rose 10 per cent to $659 million in 2006, and Jupiter forecast a compound annual growth rate of 8 per cent through 2011.
To lure new members, Match.com and others add new features constantly. Late last year, the online-dating giant launched a service called Match My Friends that lets members create profiles of friends, instantly adding new members to Match.com's 20 million.
Asked whether Facebook and MySpace compete with dating sites, Match.com said social-networking sites have a different objective. "People on social networks already know who they're communicating with," said Craig Wax, general manager for Match.com, North America. "Match shows them people they don't know."
Still, some industry members say that adding a Facebook application isn't innovative enough to spur the sector forward. Established dating sites "are making a good living, getting $35 a month from customers," said Alex Gurevich, co-founder of Say Hey Hey, a start-up described as YouTube meets Match.com because videos of members are used as dating profiles. "For them to go off and do something more innovative, that's a risk. They've thought about adding video, but they don't want to risk losing their demographic. It's up to smaller players to push innovation."