THE BLOG
05/22/2013 11:36 am ET | Updated Jul 22, 2013

Top Dating Site 'Plenty of Fish' Announces Big Changes

Plenty of Fish is swabbing the deck. On Monday, POF founder, Markus Frind, announced to members that the site will be undergoing some major changes. "POF is all about relationships, I'm going to make a bunch of changes to ensure it stays a relationship-focused site, " Frind said. However, as an online dating coach, I question whether the site was ever one that attracted relationship-seekers to begin with.

PlentyOfFish.com, which holds the #1 dating site ranking in multiple countries including the U.S., is one of the only top-ranked sites that allows members to not only register, but also to search and message for free, deriving more of its revenue from advertisers. Due to the low barrier for entry this leads them to attract more casual daters. However, it also allows them to focus on retention of customers rather than constantly having to attract new singles.

Plenty of Fish also has led the pack on innovation for many years offering many options for communication to serve the varied interests of users. One of theses features, Intimate Encounters (IE), was a subset of Plenty of Fish for those explicitly seeking sexual partners without having to shoulder the burden of a relationship.

To make a dating site work, the site must first have viable options for people to date. In the case of Intimate Encounters, Frind said, "There are 3.3 million people who use the site every day, of those there are only 6,041 single women looking for Intimate Encounters. Of those 6,041 women, the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women. Intimate Encounters on POF can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women."

There had been speculation since last fall that this decision was coming after users suddenly noticed that they could no longer search for Intimate Encounters. What frequent IE users might not have realized was that if they searched for four or more Intimate Encounters, they triggered filters that blocked them from messaging members who did not want to hear from IE singles trolling for hook-ups on the site. Those who did know this often created secondary accounts --one for legitimate dates and another for their secret sexploits.

In addition to eliminating Intimate Encounters entirely, they are also only going to allow members to messages singles who are 14 years their senior or junior. The accounts of those who do not comply will be deleted.

While I commend POF for aiming to change their hook-up site perception, I am skeptical that this will shift their identity simply by shutting down the hook-up portion of the site. I don't doubt Frind's altruistic intentions but it goes without saying that many advertisers, which are the bread and butter of their revenue stream, frown upon associating themselves with any shade of legal prostitution. In the meantime, it looks like dirty old men will have to resort to finding their sexual partners the old-fashioned way -- on Craigslist.