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OKCupid starts accepting Bitcoin using Coinbase (coinbase.tumblr.com)
189 points by FredEE on Apr 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments

This seems like a great idea, since people who are into BitCoin are likely to use online dating services.

I thought this was funny, but downvoted because it was also rude and unproductive.

I wish we could talk about Bitcoin without saying either 1. that its expected value is negative infinity dollars and pyramid tulip 2. that its expected value is infinity dollars and oppression fiat. I think both sides are well aware of the counter arguments.

But even though that will never happen, I think we can stop short of allowing ad hominems to be acceptable posts.

Is "uses an online dating service" still an ad hominem? It seems to be a pretty widely used way to meet people these days.

In this case it was obviously intended to be a criticism of Bitcoin enthusiasts. I personally don't see a problem with online dating.

Yes. You'd expect a community such as hacker news to be above the usual nerd-shaming.

It's called tongue-in-cheek self-referential humor.

Naturally, you'd expect a community such as Hacker News to be below such subtlety. :D

PS: I am a fat nerd wearing a black t-shirt, love bitcoin, and have used OKCupid to get dozens of successful dates over the last 8 years.

Fair enough. I agree it can be funny, just somewhat immature. The line between bullying and "self referential in-group humor" is pretty thin sometimes. I guess it's a bit like sexist jokes, in that some things that are meant as funny can be interpreted wrongly and hurt.

Seriously? You're getting bent out of shape over this??? Despite being very likely true, the statement was funny and targeting just the right people for it to be funny.

You'd expect that from any community, but unfortunately, as much as you'd expect that, that much its not the case, regardless of the community type. Simply put, people are everywhere.

Trying to write off the discussion of the speculative bubble nature of bitcoin as "just one side of a polarized debate" is, to my mind, grossly immature. Speculation and runaway inflation are things that are commonplace with currencies and investments, and for a sound currency there very much needs to be a robust and thorough debate on those topics. It does need to be discussed to death. If the argument of bitcoin proponents on the matter is "shut up" then you're doing a disservice to bitcoin.

I think that we can all be pretty certain that inflation is not, and will never be, a problem with bit coin.

While there's some deflation built in as keys get lost and the economy grows, periods of inflation are still possible as bitcoin billionaires start going on shopping sprees.

Honestly, I would be surprised if more than 1% of OkCupid's user base switched to BitCoin.

Back in the 90s, the nerds dominated online dating. Same story with the Bulletin Board Systems of the 70s (The Matchmaker) and the punch cards at Stanford in the 60s (Happy Families Planning Services, used on the IBM 650) for the purposes of online dating. Today, it's much more pervasive with 75% of singles in the U.S. having tried online dating. Most of the women I've talked to on OkCupid are not technical, and when I setup a fake account to see what types of messages girls would receive, none of the people who initiated contact were hackers.

I still don't think the mainstream understands what BitCoin is, or why it's valuable. They hear things like "anonymous" and then wonder what they'd need that for, not seeing that the earliest users of BitCoin were hobbyists, hackers, and Silk Road members. If anything, hopefully this will push people to become BitCoin users, assuming the sign up process is easy enough and the price difference is enough to make them switch.

Don't overthink the joke.

I must have missed the sarcasm. Plenty of people mistakenly believe that online dating is still used mainly by nerds. It was true at one point in time.

Edit: I find it strange that you deleted your previous comment after you wrote a reply to my comment, which said you've enjoyed using OkCupid for 8 years. That comment was part of what prompted me to respond initially, and why I didn't think it was sarcasm.

Original comment doesn't state that online dating is used mainly by nerds, but that nerds mainly use online dating.

It's so pervasive now that you could make the statement true by replacing nerd with any other group of people.

The only exception would be people in relationships or marriages. Unfortunately, even that is becoming questionable: look at Ashley Madison and its nearly 2 million uniques per month.

I wish there were a dating site mainly for nerds, really. I don't know how you could maintain that.

It has the classic chicken and egg problem that you'll face when you start any type of online dating startup. Niche dating startups are even harder to start because you have an implicit filter to start off with, and the problem with all filters is they reduce the pool. If you have a small pool of users to choose from, you'll have an even smaller pool of users with other filters applied.

So you can search for keywords on OkCupid, such as "nerd" or "programmer." You won't find many results, but you can try. The other way to go about it is working exclusively with software companies, such as Google or Facebook (similar to how Facebook required an .edu address to join, you must check for a company e-mail to join). You still have a chicken and egg problem though, so you must solve that in order to make the niche nerd dating startup work.

It would be interesting to have a site (dating or HR or commentary) where you could have specific facts/tags in a profile and some serious checking of those specific facts.

e.g. for a dating site you'd have "less than 300 pounds", "graduated from Stanford", "not married", "hivfree"

for an HR site you'd have "not a CISSP", "graduated from Caltech in 2000 in CS", "US Citizen", "worked for Google 2000-2004", etc.

Individual tags would be searchable, high confidence, and ideally structured (so "College Graduate", "CS", "MIT", "MIT SB", "MIT 2000", "MIT SB 2000", "MIT SB 6 2000" would all be known.

(The stupid way LinkedIn does Endorsements isn't it, I think. What my friends click just to get a stupid box to go away isn't high assurance information. I'm not sure if crowdsourcing has any place, but the ideal is to get actual validation from the data owner.)

This is something that needs to exist, and I'm very excited about it. We may build this at CupidWithFriends. I've thought about tags for a while now, the problem is you don't have an identity layer to actually verify whether the tags are true or not. Think LinkedIn endorsements, but for dating. Lying is a huge problem, 81% of all online dating users will lie about some aspect of themselves.

I wrote this comment before I made it to the end of what you wrote about LinkedIn endorsements. The implementation is still up for debate, but the idea is compelling at the very least. I do think that LinkedIn endorsements are worthless because I haven't yet used them, but that idea distills a person down to their core. We're basically trying to solve that problem through the single question that gets more responses than any other on our site: "describe your friend using only three words."

I'm not really in the dating market at all, but if you could figure out how to do this for HR or social/hacking/friendship/etc., I'd be really interested.

Being able to find a set of N people who are into ancap/lib ideas if not politics, blinded tokens, HSMs, and are within a 100 mi radius of X would be interesting.

Who is going to post on a dating site that their friend is really fatter than they're claiming? I imagine most people would consider that unthinkably mean.

Yeah, I'd be afraid of the crowdsourced "endorsements" turning into totally bland stuff as a result. What I specifically want are "facts", i.e. things which are objective and can be verified/falsified. No one will post those about their friends if they are anything but positive.

So the natural consequence is assuming the absence of a verified fact for "is under 300 pounds" is "is over 300 pounds" with equally high certainty, if you have a well structured system which covers everything.

I don't think the overweight tag would be interesting, but just figuring out the basics of a person without having to read through a long essay. School, occupation, personality traits as described by friends, etc.

My theory is the problem of people lying on their profiles will go away when their friends are using the site with them.

The gender imbalance would be massive, as it used to be.

Not a problem for 5-10% (or more?) of the potential audience.

gk2gk is not a huge success because straight males usually prefer females, even if they are not geeks.

Your potential audience is not tiny but it isn't massive either.

Aside from the non-heterosexual market being large, there are two other factors:

1) JDate allegedly has nots of non-Jewish people on the site who are looking to date Jews. I mean, it makes sense -- it's a great place to find them :) Maybe there are non-geeks who are looking to date geeks.

2) My definition of nerd/geek goes beyond programming. A professional (in law or medicine or engineering) is probably way more interesting than a .NET corporate programmer. I could see "career/lifestyle tags" working for this.

Arguably it wouldn't even need to be limited to geeky activities, but general interest interests as well. Maybe someone really likes backpackers, or people who have completed Bioshock Infinite, or corporate M&A lawyers, or people from Surrey. Having verified tags for those things would make searches more interesting.

It's called World of Warcraft.


OkCupid is "special". It has an extremely geeky userbase compared to most dating services. Not necessarily overly technical, but certainly geeky. It might not get a massive amount of use, but it will get them some PR (well, it already has) within communities that are already more likely to sign up with them than the mainstream that are more appreciative in general of stuff like this even if they won't use it.

> It has an extremely geeky userbase compared to most dating services. Not necessarily overly technical, but certainly geeky.

I really wish they would start OkTrends (http://blog.okcupid.com/) back up; it was really fascinating reading, the kind of analysis that's impossible to come by unless you have free-rein map-reduce access to some company's Big Data. Given their userbase I'm surprised they don't think it was a bigger PR source; I think every article from it has been hot on HN.

Funny things happen when companies get acquired. They stop acting like a startup and they start acting like large, slow companies, which is unfortunate. That blog was single-handedly what drove their traffic more than anything. Everyone I talk to said they found out about OkCupid through that blog. OkCupid knows this. The founders said they almost quit and that blog was their saving grace.

Is it any coincidence that the blog stopped around the same time they were acquired? It served its purpose and ran its course. They're done innovating in the space. We'll have to let startups lead the next wave of innovation in online dating.

> Is it any coincidence that the blog stopped around the same time they were acquired? It served its purpose and ran its course. They're done innovating in the space. We'll have to let startups lead the next wave of innovation in online dating.

First, I used to work on the OkTrends team, but I'm speaking for myself, not on behalf of OkCupid.

OkTrends didn't shut down after the acquisition - in fact, they made two posts afterwards (one several months afterwards). The fact that they haven't posted much recently has more to do with the available staff.

It takes a LOT of work to make those posts. The research for "The Real Stuff White People Like" took me a month and a half of working full-time on that and not much else. (Remember that it's "easy" to solve a problem when you define the problem at the start, but with OkTrends, we weren't always starting with a specific problem - each post began as one idea, and then went through multiple iterations before we hit on the "real" question we wanted to answer.).

Around that time, there were three of us working on OkTrends, two of us full-time and the third more-or-less full-time. Once the two full-timers left (for reasons unrelated to the acquisition - I went back to school to finish my degree), you can see why it became much harder to work on those posts.

And before someone says that they could just hire someone else - yes, perhaps, but that's harder than it looks. Data scientist positions are already one of the most difficult to hire for (from a startup perspective), and OkCupid also sets the bar incredibly high. To date, I think that was probably my most intensive and comprehensive interview experience.

Trust me, I give the OkCupid folks crap about this every time I see them (particularly my old boss), because I'd love to see more posts too. But don't think the timing of the hiatus has anything to do with the acquisition; it's truly coincidental. Many startups stop innovating after they're acquired - OkCupid is definitely not one of them.

To be fair, from what I recall while I was there, the blog was also instead of paying for a PR firm and having Sam going on morning talk shows that didn't really hit our demographic or help our growth much. So once we got bought the need for it did decrease a lot.

I heard there is a book containing a lot of similar information coming out though.

Thanks for the detailed comment. It's interesting to hear from someone who worked on the OkTrends team. I'm still unconvinced that the reason they didn't start OKT back up is because they can't find some people like Chris Rudder or Chris Coyne to help. I found this excerpt interesting from a Quora article:

We had Christian Rudder writing the blog. Yes, he studied math at Harvard, but the math on OkTrends was high school level. And with a lot of statistical hand-waving and over-simplification. His posts were great because he's such an amazing writer, not because he's awesome at math. (He's certainly the best writer I know.)

Many startups stop innovating after they're acquired - OkCupid is definitely not one of them.

Can you elaborate on this? What innovation have they done since they were acquired by IAC, discounting Crazy Blind Date? I've used better mobile apps for dating than CBD, that app didn't work for me.

Perhaps, instead of bringing someone in to crunch their numbers and look for interesting correlations--they might rather be willing to license their data out to some think-tank or newspaper/magazine or something, who would do that analysis for its own (readership's) sake?

There was a site, I can't find it now, that had the anonymized question data for sale but I think it was $20K or in that ballpark. Also I think they do license the data to universities upon request. E.g. siepr.stanford.edu/system/files/shared/Piskorski-SIEPR.pdf

The quizzes, posted on livejournal, were what actually drove their early users. The blog came way later. Quizzes are non-dating/non-sexual, back in the early 2000s where among <25 year olds online dating was still something nerdy losers did (or old people who were desperate to get married, using sites like eHarm and Match). So, it brought a lot of girls.

I honestly had no idea OKC was actually a dating site until I'd had an account for a year or two. I just had it to answer quizzes.

Very interesting. I recall watching an interview with Sam Yagan and he said they were about to give up, but that blog was the one thing that saved the company. The guy writing the blogs had a math background, and it worked tremendously well.

I wish I had that link, but I'll have to look it up.

I think quizzes/etc. on LJ got them early users, but then there was a big decline in LJ around the time MySpace got popular (2005-2006?), which probably hurt OKC. FB becoming popular essentially killed it. The blog, IIRC, was around that time -- so for a while the "dating" site had a bunch of accounts of people who were originally there for quizzes, many of whom were no longer active.

Do businesses that accept bitoins for payments typically immediately cash it out on exchanges or do they actually carry the "FX" risk?

edit: since MtGox only charges a fixed %age fee for transactions, automating a conversion into USD wouldn't cost any more than doing periodic larger transactions (other than the development and maintenance cost of such a system

Do businesses that accept bitoins for payments typically immediately cash it out on exchanges or do they actually carry the "FX" risk?

People in the Bitcoin community believe that these options are mutually exclusive, but they're not. If you're doing a dual currency transaction in a period of high volatility, somebody is paying for that exchange risk. It's either the customer, the payment processor, or the merchant, or possibly two of them, but it certainly isn't no-one.

There were multiple periods today in which Bitcoin fell more than 10% in 15 minutes. If I were insane enough to sell Bingo Card Creator for Bitcoin, and then gave an elementary schoolteacher a quote for 0.42785714285714285714285714285714 BTC ($29.95 at 70 to the dollar), it's entirely possible that in the five minutes of thinking it took to process everything on the screen, the 0.42785714285714285714285714285714 BTC that I received would be worth only $27.81 at market prices. Hmm, that's funny, I just paid 7.1% in transaction fees before paying the transaction fees. (We're obviously operating in a perverse hypothetical world where elementary schoolteachers would both understand that option, have BTC available to spend, and be happy spending them, and where I would consider actually implementing this.)

It's possible that the payment processor I was working with would absorb this risk for me, because they hope to keep my business. That would be an extraordinary dangerous decision for them, because they're now running their merchant payments operation as a sideline to currency speculation. (Which I suppose makes them a perfect fit for the Bitcoin community.)

(I used to work at an investment bank working on algorithmic market making for currencies)

In theory how it would work is that your payment processor would get a price from an FX broker who would guarantee it for a fixed period of time (say 15 minutes) but would offer a worse FX spread with the difference between the offered spread and the market spread being their compensation for taking the risk.

The FX broker would mitigate some of their risk internally (against other customer who want to transact in the opposite direction) and through purchasing spot/forwards/options. As the volatility of the market increased the broker would widen their spread so as to avoid being over-exposed at any point. The business of the FX broker would fundamentally be one of risk-management.

So from a customer view point they'll get a crappy exchange rate compared to what they'd get from a BTC exchange, but they'll be able to do the transaction.

In reality this is quite similar to what happens in multi-currency transactions anyway, if you're buying something priced USD with a EUR credit card you'll typically:

1) Get a "frozen" rate (i.e. you'll get charged a specified amount of EUR) which is worse than market rate (as described above) .

2) Get charged the USD price at whatever the market rate is (-ish, there's still some markup on this) at the time the transaction goes through.

(some smaller vendors just have fixed prices in different currencies; this means that the vendors themselves are taking the currency risk)

And if you're selling something which can be resold for most of what you've been paid, then either you or your payment processor is giving away free puts on Bitcoin. And if you offer refunds at par value in USD, you're also giving away free calls on Bitcoin.

To play the devil's advocate, I'll point out that anyone selling in multiple currencies has to deal with hedging fx risk. For example, USDJPY has been pretty nuts thus far in April (not BTC nuts, but intraday swings of 1-2%).

If you were 1) very determined to sell in BTC and 2) could buy USDBTC options you could probably sell in BTC and limit your exposure to the fx risk.

I'll point out that anyone selling in multiple currencies has to deal with hedging fx risk

Yes, and anyone whose business involves juggling chainsaws has to pay an awful lot for workplace insurance, but Bingo Card Creator doesn't involve chainsaws. Bitcoin proponents love to say "No transaction fees! Can your credit card processor do that?" while perhaps forgetting to mention that the actual mechanism for achieving this involves you juggling chainsaws.

Transaction fees are part of the spec for bitcoin. Who says there are no transaction fees?

I'm not sure why you were downvoted. Bitcoin definitely has transaction fees which will only increase with time.

Yeah. I think at this "early" (from a mainstream PoV) stage, services like Coinbase and Bitpay are just simply another "VCs+founders betting" on how something might play out in the medium-term future. IF you have a few crashes like that in the short-term BUT Bitcoins "take off" and keep rising in USD in the medium-term, great profit opportunity. Because then, you get your 29.95 while the price has already risen far beyond that, with them pocketing the difference.

If it works out like that, neat play for them. If it doesn't -- "oh well, startups are risky". Fair game for teams that have such stamina. ;)

When it comes to BTC, right now, all bets are off.

Did anyone else read the fees?

1% and 15cents? That's incredible.... Compared to the 2.9% and 30 cents most other payment processors charge.

I will be migrating my start up soon!

Bear in mind that there are also going to be fees paid by the customer in order to get Bitcoins, unless they're one of the tiny number of people who mine Bitcoins profitably. Those fees are probably going to be enough to bring the total cost close to that of a normal payment processor even with the cheapest options.

Also, right now the value of their bitcoins will probably drop by more than 2.9% in the time between them buying the coins and being able to send them.

I think it's just a reflection of the underlying transaction facilitators (CC processors vs Bitcoin exchanges). The CC processors charge the % + fee, and the services that build on top of that tack on their cut. MtGox charges a % cut (I forget what it is, but it's below CC rates by a lot) and so you tack on your cut on top of it to end up with a lower cost than CC processors.

I really do feel that MtGox will move to a higher fee schedule as Bitcoin volume increases, so it'll be interesting to see the convergence of Bitcoin fees vs CC/Stripe/Paypal fees and how processors reconcile the two and balance growth (driven by lower cost) vs immediate profits.

I think it's just a reflection of the underlying transaction facilitators (CC processors vs Bitcoin exchanges).

And thats one of the reasons Satoshi started Bitcoin to begin with - transactions within the traditional money network have become very complex and expensive. One of the aims of bitcoin is more economically efficient transactions:

The cost of mediation increases transaction costs, limiting the minimum practical transaction size and cutting off the possibility for small casual transactions, and there is a broader cost in the loss of ability to make non-reversible payments for non- reversible services. With the possibility of reversal, the need for trust spreads. Merchants must be wary of their customers, hassling them for more information than they would otherwise need. A certain percentage of fraud is accepted as unavoidable. These costs and payment uncertainties can be avoided in person by using physical currency, but no mechanism exists to make payments over a communications channel without a trusted party

That might not happen, credit card fees are usually broken down as so:

1. Receiving Bank Fee 2. Sending Bank Fee (most of the charge) 3. Network fee (visa, mastercard, etc)

And a good amount of fraud built into those fees. Fees often vary by fraud risk, with internet and telephone charging ~3% and supermarkets getting around %1 already. Debit cards can be flat fee also.

As bitcoin volume increase, miners will probably start charging transaction fees themselves. So that'll increase.

That's not how Bitcoin works. Miners can't charge me anything. They can choose to not process my transaction if it doesn't have enough fees for them.

Sure, it's all optional. But if all the miners are charging a small amount, and you face a choice between "wait a week for the transaction to complete" or "pay 1%", then BitCoin essentially has fees.

You just wait until they have to take dispute resolution and fraud seriously or face losing business - the fees will increase.

Thx for the info!

It'll be interesting to see how the model and fees develop, as Btc exchanges move from the current x% model to the inevitable x% + $y, $y, or $y/share model.

Right now, we (OkCupid) don't hold assets in BTC. It's converted immediately to USD, in which we denominate the original prices. The BTC price fluctuates with the exchange rate.

Generally (I can't speak for the concrete case), when a business accepts payment in different currencies, it's because they intend to hold that currency, typically because they can settle liabilities in that currency.

Pure speculation, but this could simply be a case of OKCupid wanting to support the Bitcoin ecosystem by providing a service that can be paid for directly in Bitcoin, thus raising the attractiveness of accepting Bitcoin as payment, further strengthening the system. To do this, they'll probably have to put the long-term net value of their Bitcoin holdings as zero, but they can probably afford that.

It is far far more likely that they are doing this as a PR/marketing effort: they can get exposure, and new customers who want to spend BTC on something. Not because OKC/Match wante to invest in the BTC system.

Until Bitcoin normalises it sadly doesn't matter who accepts it, the currency is experiencing so much instability you're better off buying a prepaid Visa debit card and using that for paying for online dating services. It;s good to see more services accepting the currency but it doesn't change the fact it's a hotbox for hacker attacks, old fashioned bank-running when the price rises and all of the investors it has attracted looking to make a quick buck.

I wish there were a simple-as-Stripe way to outsource multiple payment options for customers (BTC, cards, ACH, etc.). I guess technically you could use PayPal or maybe Amazon Payments for that, but I don't think they're particularly likely to support Bitcoin anytime soon.

Spreedly comes pretty close to this actually, and they're much more likely to support working with something like CoinBase for BTC soon.

This is interesting but really more in the cool/cute/novel category than the practical needs one.

I'm pretty hopeful and positive about bitcoin but that's one of the things that makes me still very suspicious of it. Seems that the places adopting it are doing so for fun, ideological or theoretical reasons rather than to solve some problem they have.

I'm waiting to see online retailers requiring bitcoin payments for high risk transactions (eg sending mobile phones to nairobi). Something that demonstrates it solves a problem and (ideally) enables commerce where it wasn't possible before.

There are more large, recognized businesses coming online soon. I'm talking to a start-up right now that is fairly well-known among HNers that is working on setting up Bitcoin payment options (and have asked them if I can share their plans -- waiting for a response).

Wait, since when did OKCupid start charging? They were free when I was on there (before the match.com takeover)

It was after their acquisition by IAC in 2011. Match.com is owned by IAC, so technically it was taken over by IAC. The CEO said multiple times they'd never charge, but plans tend to change after you get acquired.

Paying (for A-List) is entirely optional and gets you extra, nonessential features (like no ads and extra search parameters). It's been around since 2009, long before IAC bought us. Using OkCupid is still, and will stay, free.

My mistake. I originally prefaced my comment with "I think" and should have left that in there, because I didn't know for sure. I misread a Mashable article that said OkCupid would never charge in 2011.

Oh I see. Thanks for correcting

They just charge for some extra features, such as anonymously browsing other peoples pages while seeing who visited yours and organizing search results by attractiveness.

The entire blog seems to be 404ing now.

This is interesting, I'm all for bitcoin, but I think if I am meeting someone over the internet, I'd like at least some part of the process to not be anonymous.

I know that doesn't necessarily make me safe, but it is one more step.

Same question as always. Money transmission license?

Fedoras, everywhere

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