On Friday, online dating service OkCupid introduced its biggest change since its 2009 paid “A-List” add-on package. Starting today, the site’s users no longer see a major data point that has been standard for nearly a decade: the “visitors” tab.
“What’s the value of a visitor?” the company wrote in an e-mail to users. “Short answer: zero.” However, that valuation is shaken up by a follow-up sentence, and it may explain why the company made the change. “A person who visits your profile and chooses not to follow up with a ‘like’ or a message probably (read: definitely) isn’t worth your time.”
To understand this “visitor” tab’s potential value, here’s a brief explainer. OkCupid works differently than GPS-fueled dating apps like Tinder, since it’s a product of an older dating-service generation. Its users can sort through potential matches with a variety of metrics, particularly a “match percentage” determined by the site’s questionnaires. The service’s reliance on questions, data, and match metrics (broken down into categories like sex, ethics, and religion) differentiated the service from its ’00s peers (and gives it less of a “hook-up” reputation than the photo- and location-focused Tinder).
If you’re interested in a user for any reason, you can follow that up by either tapping a “like” button (much like Tinder) or sending an unsolicited message (unlike Tinder). However, visitors who are too shy to send a message—or who assume that their messages won’t be read or noticed, since men tend to send more messages than women—rely on the “like” button. If two users tap “like,” they’ll get an alert. (It’s along the lines of, “you two like each other; go ahead, start talking.”)
This is where today’s news comes in. OKC introduced a paid “A-List” feature in 2009. Among other features, this automatically informs you whenever someone tapped “like” on your profile, even if you haven’t “liked” them back. Those who opt not to pay for A-List had a different path towards this kind of discovery: the free “visitors” tab, which listed every user who looked at your profile and showed what time they did so (unless they use the site’s “incognito” feature, which lets anyone opt out of this visitor system altogether).
In short, a user could look through and see who looked at them, which is a potentially quicker path to determining who out there might have actually tapped “like” on you. (Without real-life cues like body language, online dating users can benefit from round-about paths to finding potential interest. As an occasional OkCupid user over the years, I can attest to appreciating any cues beyond seeing what happens when I send awkward, unsolicited “HI HOW ARE YOU” messages.)
Thus, OkCupid’s statement doesn’t necessarily add up. If a person visits your profile and does follow up with the “like” button, they just might be worth your time, and a “visitor” tab would let you tap “like” in kind and find out. But as of today, OkCupid now only has one option to reveal that information: A-List subscriptions, which cost $19.95 per individual month or $59.70 as a six-month bundle. (“A-List Premium” was introduced years later with an additional $15/month charge and more features.) Free users still “pay” for the site via advertisements, which A-List users can disable.
While OkCupid’s public-facing blog is typically transparent about changes, features, and site-driven research, the company elected to only inform users about this visitor-tab change via e-mail. OkCupid did not respond to Ars Technica’s questions about the changes in time for this article’s publication.