Online dating, meet the social network, meet real-time search.
That's essentially the elevator pitch of Gelato, an early-stage start-up that's presenting at the DemoFall 09 conference in San Diego this week. Founded by Steve Odom, a recently divorced entrepreneur who found himself wanting a more effective way to meet someone new than what was available, Gelato aims to give singles a way to meet someone who might actually be a good match.
The idea is, as Odom put it, Friendfeed for dating. Users create a profile and then are able to peruse "life streams" of potential matches by viewing their Facebook profile and updates, their Twitter feed, the music they listen to on Last.FM and even what they're watching on Hulu and Netflix and their pictures on Flickr.
Ultimately, the point, Odom explained, is to give users a very realistic, in the moment, view of the person they might be going on a date with.
And, given this wealth of information, Gelato users are also rewarded for the truthfulness of their own profiles. In other words, the Gelato system looks for verification that, for example, someone who says in their profile that they're single really is.
To do that, Odom said he came up with what is known as the "Scoop" scoring system. This is designed to reward participation in social networking--the source of all of Gelato's information--as well as honesty. So, for example, a user gets 25 Scoop points for having an authenticated Facebook account with more than 25 friends; 25 points for an authenticated Twitter account; and 25 points if their Facebook relationship status matches what they've entered in their Gelato profile.
That means that Gelato users can easily see how many points someone else on the system has, and then take that into consideration when deciding if they think that person might be a good match.
To Odom, this combination of being able to see what someone is doing in real-time (via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and so on) and how active they are in various social networks means "you get a better sense of who someone is from what they're actually doing."
And, he added, it means that users can search for a more broad range of criteria, given that Gelato can look for matches based on search terms on all the various social networking sites that members use. So, finding "women who are 30 to 40, who are nonsmokers, who are politically liberal and who recently mentioned Burning Man, USC football, or World of Warcraft" might actually bear fruit, Odom explained.
Will this approach to online dating work? It is, of course, too early to tell, and Gelato will have to contend with the fact that anyone interested in finding love online already has a myriad choices. But there is something to be said for giving people a better sense, up front, of what they're really dealing with in the scary world of online dating, and if Gelato works as described, users will at least be able to know if their potential mates are as interested in Burning Man, USC football, and World of Warcraft as they are.