OkCupid, the popular and free dating site, has been manipulating users' compatibility in order to study and monitor dating behavior, the site revealed.
In a blog post that ran on Monday, company president Christian Rudder admits: "We might be popular, but OkCupid doesn't really know what it's doing … Experiments are how you sort all this out."
Those experiments involved twiddling with the site's compatibility data to make users think they're a better match than they really are – and vice versa.
Case in point: In one experiment, the website told pairs who scored a 30 percent match that they were 90 percent compatible. OkCupid claims the ploy worked: "When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other," Rudder's blog post says.
The site also flipped the experiment, fooling strong matches into thinking they weren't right for each other. The results? Only a tenth of pairs moved past a single message to each other.
In another experiment, the site hid the profile text of a group of users to see how people would rate them based on their looks and photos alone. "Essentially, the text is less than 10 percent of what people think of you," Rudder writes. "So, your picture is worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth … almost nothing."
OkCupid's mea culpa comes on the heels of controversy surrounding Facebook's recent manipulative mood study, but the dating site has so far offered no apologies for tweaking those compatibility ratings. In fact, it's digging in its heels.
"If you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time," says Rudder. "That's how websites work."