The online-dating industry conference, an annual three-day affair, hosts a diverse mix of the date-o-sphere’s rich and poor. In 2012, with a third of America’s 90 million singles dating online–not counting those who hook up through Facebook and other social-media sites–it’s easy to forget the recent bygone era, when “Internet dating” was considered a seamy, almost unspeakable underworld, where the web’s most troglodytic misfits sought weird companionship. So it was a rather perspective-enhancing move, on the part of conference organizers, to kick off Day One with a keynote address from a congenial, awkward, and unassuming man, the original weirdo, Gary Kremen.
You’ve got the big corporate players (Google; Bing; and IAC, owner of Match and Ok Cupid); the geek-outsiders-cum-major-industry-disrupters (Plenty of Fish, Grindr); the pious marriage specialists; the purveyors of deviance; the upstart wannabes and the unabashed snake-oil salesmen. Seventeen years ago, Kremen, now 48, secured the domain-name “Match.com” from the government (when such was still possible), opened a small office in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood, bought a $750,000 server on credit from Sun Microsystems, and launched what would become the Internet’s first mass-market dating site, a subscription-based service that promised, as the young Kremen reportedly put it at the time, “to bring more love to the planet than Jesus Christ.” The exuberance was short-lived, however.
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