Earlier this year I did some research into the world of online dating. There *must* be something new and innovative going on besides Match.com and eHarmony after all these years, I thought. But the impression I got was that it’s all about distribution, not innovation. You have to have a lot of fish in your sea before people will believe the one for them is in it. Adding cool social features or location awareness or some other sort of modern web experience does not seem to bring in swarms of users. The only newcomer approaching scale seemed to be Zoosk, which got its start as a Hot-or-Not application during the early days of extreme virality on Facebook.
While Triangulate, a new startup with a Facebook dating app called Wings, doesn’t have massive reach yet — just 30,000 active users — I do think they’re onto something. We put so much data online everyday, and we should get some use out of it. Wings looks at signals such as what you “like” on Facebook and using Facebook’s tools around the web, crunches the numbers, and recommends people you’re compatible with.
What’s cool about what Triangulate is doing is using implicit signals; when you sign up for the Wings app with your Facebook account, you barely have to fill out a profile. At the same time, I’m not sure how knowing that I liked “The Wire” is going to find me a companion (not that I’m looking!). But this is the kind of thing that will get more precise over time; for instance, the app imports Netflix (s NFLX), Foursquare and Blippy feeds for users who wish to share them (see the pictured Foursquare data analysis). When Wings sees gaps in a user’s profile, it tries to infer what you might like based on looking at your friends’ profiles, Triangulate CEO Sunil Nagaraj said in an interview Monday.
Palo Alto-based Triangulate, which has five employees, is announcing Tuesday it’s raised $750,000 from Trinity Ventures and Rick Thompson, the chairman of Playdom. Beyond “one-click dating,” Triangulate hopes to move into recommendations for jobs, products and friends, said Nagaraj. He also said the company is committed to giving users control of their data, and allowing them to look under the hood to see what data they’re contributing (at the same time, Triangulate promises not to overshare your dating activity back to Facebook). The company makes money by charging users in Facebook Credits to connect to each other.
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