Time to Date With Protection (Not Talking About Masks)
Online dating is often a frustrating experience. Dating apps have a way of bringing the worst out of people: catfishing, ghosting, breadcrumbing are only some of the deceptive behaviors that cause frustration and disappointment. Honest people invest a lot of time and emotional energy into the digital dating process, but are not consistently rewarded for their efforts.
To be clear, dating is always difficult, on and offline. There is no app that can manufacture mutual attraction out of thin air: every dating app is ultimately a community of individuals who may or may not like each other. According to Consumer Reports money editor Margot Gilman, "unlike shopping for a bank or a refrigerator, in the case of online dating, the refrigerator has to like you back." Disappointment is inevitably part of the experience.
Catfishing and Other (Unnecessary) Disappointments
To make matters worst, apps do little to mitigate the disappointing elements of dating. Tens–maybe hundreds–of thousands of fake profiles are created every day on major dating sites and apps worldwide. While many are quickly blocked, plenty of catfish infiltrate online communities. Romance scammers impersonate military service members to defraud single women, pretend to be sugar daddies to pull the Venmo scam, or purport to be sugar babies to extort money in sexting scams typically aimed at middle-aged men.
Then there are genuine users misrepresenting themselves to appear younger, more attractive, taller, stronger, etc. There are those in monogamous relationships who lie about being single, and others who turn to wokefishing to sound cooler.
Add a few cyberbullies, man-children and trolls to discover that one in five women aged 18 to 34 has received physical threats on a dating app.
Online Dating Lacks Accountability
All of this is possible because users are not held accountable for their actions. Dating apps are too busy increasing engagement to design mechanisms that reward authenticity—in other words, quality over quantity of connections.
Deception can even be rewarded. If you rise in the ranks of a community because your profile is shown more or less often based on how many people swipe right on you, you are incentivized to... embellish your credentials.
We know that deception and disrespect are major sources of disappointment and colossal wastes of time for online daters. And while we can't build an infallible online lie detector (yet), there are plenty of things we can do to keep the lies in check.
Introducing Trust Rating
Since its inception, iris has required all new members to verify their primary profile picture with a selfie. This feature is not exclusive to iris, but most dating apps do not require photo verification, they only offer it, meaning that their communities are still crawling with fake profiles, catfish, and romance scammers. Photo verification is mandatory on iris: approximately 20% of applications to join are rejected because of profile photo mismatches.
But we also want iris to become the world’s most trusted dating community and change the way people date online by creating an incentive system that will reward our members for being honest about themselves and transparent with their intentions.
The foundation of our incentive system is Trust Rating, a scoring mechanism that measures the contribution each member makes to the iris community. Members who invest time to create a thorough, compelling profile, and who are respectful in their interactions with other users, receive higher scores. Jerks, fuckboys and a-holes get lower scores (and risk being banned).
iris is still 100% free for all users at the moment. When we do introduce monetization next year, our prices will be dynamic and depend on the Trust Rating: the higher a member's Trust Rating, the lower the price (all the way down to $0). The lower the Trust Rating, the higher the price.
In other words: dating communities are like relationships. There are givers and takers. Givers who put in time and effort to be the best version of themselves (honest, respectful, genuine, comfortable in their own skins), and takers who look for shortcuts. On iris, takers will pay more. Call it a Taker Tax, if you like.
Shirts On and Snap Filters Off
Hundreds of behavioral metrics are factored in by our Artificial Intelligence to adjust each member's Trust Rating in real time. The general principle is that we are looking for clues that a member is being authentic and respectful: a thorough profile with many pictures and a thorough "about me" section is a big plus. Liking every single profile to "maximize" chances of a match is a big minus.
We don't disclose all of the factors that impact one's score, but we can leak a few common slips that we penalize:
- A shirtless selfie in front of a mirror.
- A picture with an obvious Snapchat filter applied.
- Too many group photos.
- A short, generic description.
- An above average propensity not to reply to messages after a match.
Time to Date with Protection (From Catfish and Jerks)
When the now-defunct kiss.com kicked off the era of meeting singles over the internet a quarter century ago—fewer than 2% of couples met online (and possibly close to 100% of them denied it). The proliferation of dating apps has since transformed dating and relationships alike. About half of new US couples now originate online.
But even while online dating was rapidly evolving from taboo to meat market, the industry made relatively few adjustments to avoid over-gamification and provide as safe a space as possible for people to meet. It's time to change that.
With the release of Trust Rating, we hope to reform online dating and give iris members an opportunity to meet the best version of each other: safe in their emotional vulnerability, free from judgement, protected from scammers and a-holes.
Legendary investor Michael J. Burry is said to have met his wife online. His profile said: "I am a medical student with only one eye, an awkward social manner, and $145,000 in student loans." She wrote back, "you're just what I've been looking for!" She meant "honest."
That's how powerful candor can be for people trying to start any kind of relationship, and that is the behavior we hope to incentivize on iris.