THE BLOG

Interview With Markus Frind, Founder and CEO of Plenty of Fish

06/06/2013 10:23 am ET | Updated Aug 06, 2013

"Wanna come over for a good time?"

This was the one and only line I received from one guy whose picture I suspected was fake based on his resemblance to a male model posing for an underwear ad.

"Myopic."

This was the word used to describe me when I told a 65-year-old man that he was too old for me (I was probably 36 at the time).

I actually replied to Mr. Wanna Come Over to ask if this ever actually worked for him. He said, "you tell me." The Old Guy argued that he had been medically tested and while he was biologically 65, he was physiologically 35, and I would be lucky to keep up with him. Yes, that would make all the difference... or not. I eventually learned just to hit delete.

As many of you online daters know, these types of emails are BIG RED FLAGS. Neither of these men was looking for real relationships. They were after the one thing your dad always warned you about. And they weren't even subtle about it.

Markus Frind, Founder and CEO of Plenty of Fish, the world's largest dating website, is trying to eliminate those on his website who are looking to hook up rather than to find a real relationship. While the number of his online subscribers looking only to hook up is less than one percent, according to Frind, it is something he is working to change.

"We wanted to generate more relationships among women, and men for that matter," Frind, said, "and the best way to do that was eliminate this kind of behavior."

On May 20, 2013, Frind sent an email to all his subscribers detailing the changes he planned. The list included deleting first contact between users that contained sexual references, disallowing contact between users with greater than a 14-year age difference and elimination of the "Intimate Encounters" category of dating,

Frind attributes the recent increase in hook up offers to the increase in mobile application use.

"There is no question about that," he said. "We went from 20 percent mobile to 70 percent in a year-and-a-half."

Frind relayed that the mobile app use is later at night and more casual with more condensed messages.

"They use it casually on the train somewhere. Everything is a very short message. You can't consume as much information," Frind said. "It just makes you use it differently. It generates a different kind of perception, a different kind of feel."

One way Frind is eliminating hook up seeking is by using automated systems to flag and delete sexually provocative emails.

"When men send messages, they try to do it in the minimum amount of words possible," Frind noted. "So what they do is use certain combinations of words. So you pick 30 words and you block those words and you solve the problem."

To further reduce the number of men emailing women to try to hook up, Frind has eliminated the "Intimate Encounter" category of dating from his site. According to his email, out of 3.3 million who use the site daily, only 6,041 women are using the site for intimate encounters. He adds in the email that "of those 6,041 women, the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women." Interestingly, the ratio of men to women signed up in "Intimate Encounters" was 20 to 1.

"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," Frind wrote.

Frind has also implemented a policy that applies to men but not women.

"We blocked the ability of men to send photos to women because men were misbehaving in some photos. We were just like, forget this, get them to know each other, let them go out on a date," he said noting that women can still send pictures to men.

Another way POF is trying to encourage real relationships is to block communication between men and women who have greater than a 14-year age difference. According to Frind, POF generates hundreds of thousands of relationships, and when subscribers leave the site, they let POF know who they left with.

"We found that virtually none of them were plus or minus 10 to 12 years. Outside of that range, there was a very, very low chance of a relationship," Frind related. "And if there is a chance for a relationship, the break-up rate is triple."

Frind has begun blocking behaviors that are counter to finding relationships in order to generate more real relationships.

"Funny thing is that you learn if you change the sign-up process slightly, you change a few things here and there, and all of the sudden the way people behave just dramatically changes. The way they write profiles, everything is just completely different," Frind observed. "So ...we have to optimize for the community to get it as large as possible and the best way to do that is to generate a lot of relationships."

Frind says feedback from his recent email and changes to the site has been overwhelmingly favorable. He received more than 150,000 within 12 hours of sending his email to subscribers from both women and men. Women thanked him for the improvements and men thanked him for cleaning up the site and eliminating some of their competition.

"For the most part, everyone was very, very happy," Frind concluded.

As a former Plenty of Fish subscriber (who left because I caught my fish), I experienced my fair share of undesirable offers. The new policies implemented by Mr. Frind are certain to make for happier hunting, I mean fishing. They can't guarantee that you will catch a keeper, but you should have fewer wasted trips.