A friend and I were recently lamenting the strange death of OKCupid. Seven years ago when I first tried online dating, the way it worked is that you wrote a long essay about yourself and what you were looking for. You answered hundreds of questions about your personality, your dreams, your desires for your partner, your hard nos. Then you saw who in your area was most compatible, with a “match score” between 0 and 100%. The match scores were eerily good. Pretty much every time I read the profile of someone with a 95% match score or higher, I fell a little bit in love. Every date I went on was fun; the chemistry wasn’t always there but I felt like we could at least be great friends.
I’m now quite skeptical of quantification of romance and the idea that similarity makes for good relationships. I was somewhat skeptical then, too. What I did not expect, what would have absolutely boggled young naive techno-optimist Ivan, was that 2016-era OKCupid was the best that online dating would ever get. That the tools that people use to find the most important relationship in their lives would get worse, and worse, and worse. OKCupid, like the other acquisitions of Match.com, is just another Tinder clone - see face, swipe left, see face, swipe right. A digital nightclub. And I just don’t expect to meet my wife in a nightclub.
This isn’t just dating apps. Nearly all popular consumer software has been trending towards minimal user agency, infinitely scrolling feeds, and garbage content. Even that crown jewel of the Internet, Google Search itself, has decayed to the point of being unusable for any interesting query. Reddit and Craigslist remain incredibly useful and valuable precisely because their software remains frozen in time. Like old Victorian mansions in San Francisco they stand, shielded by a quirk of fate from the winds of capital, reminders of a more humane age.