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Love was blossoming on computer screens all over campus last year when DateSite.com, the online matchmaking site founded by four roommates in Winthrop House, started sending out "Someone likes you" e-mail messages.
But this year, the novelty may have wilted.
The notes encouraged people to return to the site, where they could type in the e-mail addresses of their crushes and send them similar e-mails. If the addresses matched, bingo--another happy couple was formed.
After just two weeks of existence in February 1999, the site had put together 175 couples.
One half of one of the first DateSite success stories, Paul A. Stephano '99, said the concept was genius.
"[The date] was great and it's all thanks to DateSite," he said a year ago.
But DateSite's heyday was short-lived. After getting over the initial excitement of a chance to reveal their crushes on the Pfoho-Open e-mail list, people soon forgot about the site.
This Valentine's Day, "Someone likes you" might be a thing of the past.
When asked about the site, many students, even those who had been the recipients of many e-mail messages last year, needed to be reminded of what exactly DateSite was.
And then they recalled the massive popularity of the trend.
"It was the kind of thing where you opened your inbox and you had eight new e-mails," says D.K. Osseo-Asare '02.
But after receiving somewhere between 50 and 100 e-mail messages from the site, Osseo-Asare questioned the sincerity of the crushes.
Elizabeth S. Grossman '00 said the fad couldn't last forever.
"That's a tough way to meet people," she says. "Nobody wanted to admit they were doing it."
Edward S. Baker '01, co-founder and webmaster of DateSite, said 1,800 Harvard users--over a quarter of the student body--have registered, and the site's 10,000 users have averaged a 20 percent matchup rate.
"But when summer came, the traffic died down," Baker says. "We really haven't spent much time advertising it since school started."
Although the crush-curiosity frenzy has dissipated, the site is prepared for students to return for another visit.
"I worked on it this summer," Baker says. "The page just looks a lot different."
Changes include a design makeover and new content, like a purity test and the "Magic Date Ball," which answers yes-or-no dating questions like the Magic Eight Ball, a popular novelty toy.
Baker's newest concept is the "Interest Matcher," a survey users can fill out to find compatible people who fit certain criteria.
"If you come to the site and don't get a match, [Interest Matcher] guarantees a match for whoever takes it," Baker says.
Currently he is having friends test out the survey prototype and give him feedback.
The questions delve into physical traits like height and body type as well as personality details like musical taste and hobbies.
Baker is worried the seven-page survey may be too lengthy for people to want to finish. The matcher will be available soon: Baker is tweaking the questions but hopes to finish it within the next few days.
"If I do put the survey on the page before Valentine's Day, I'll have it just for Harvard," Baker says. "If all goes well, we'll open it up to people at other schools."
Reeling in students in the Boston area and beyond is one of DateSite's long-term goals.
According to current DateSite statistics, students from 500 different colleges are registered.
Some schools have vast numbers of users, including MIT with 800 and Brown, UMass, BC, Amherst, BU, Yale, Brandeis, UPenn, Tufts, Princeton, URI, Wellesley and Dartmouth, each of which have several hundred DateSite devotees.
The DateSite Docs, as founders Baker, Jacob E. Fleming '01, Arthur E. Koski-Karell '01 and Joshua J. Wilske '01 call themselves, spent a lot of time last year pushing the site on campus, but the website has had to find its own way at other schools.
"Its success at Harvard shows it has a lot of potential," Baker says. "But since we don't have any source of revenue, it's hard."
First-years are another possible target for the DateSite Docs.
When told about the premise behind the site, Grace E. Bloodwell '03 said first-years would love the chance to register on the site.
"I'm going to use it now as my means of getting dates," she enthused sarcastically. "I think I'm going to skip lunch and use it right now."
Although none of the founders have found love with the website themselves, Baker says they're just happy to have done a service for the rest of the school.
"It's a fun project to do while I'm here," Baker says. "I enjoy helping people out. I like to hear about matches we've made."
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