Carrot Dating, a new dating site that asks users to trade “bribes” for dates, is borderline prostitution. But that won’t stop it from becoming popular. After all, the business model was designed that way.
The site, which gained 45,000 paid users within three days of its Oct. 21 launch, has incited the rage of many an Internet user.
Wouldn’t you know, that activity happened to give a nice little boost to Carrot’s popularity.
Carrot Dating, the brainchild of MIT graduate Brandon Wade, allows users to “bribe” others for dates. The mechanics of Carrot Dating are simple. Log in and choose a potential date. Pick one of the twenty “bribes,” including dinner, flowers, a shopping spree and plastic surgery, then offer it to another user in exchange for a date.
This site shouldn’t come as a surprise. Wade is also the creator of popular cash/goods-for-dating websites Seeking Millionaire (for women seeking a seven-figure husband), Seeking Arrangement (a sugar daddy locator) and WhatsYourPrice (a dating auction).
Unsurprisingly, Carrot Dating has caught the ire of the media and layperson alike. The top comment on its YouTube promo video states, “This is sexist and pretty much prostitution. What is this world coming to?”
“He’s using photos of women in lingerie lunging for this phallic-shaped vegetable,” says Business Insider‘s Christina Sterbenz, referring to the promo picture. “That can’t be an accident.”
Of course it’s no accident. The juxtaposition of Wade’s “woe is me” message (“I was very lonely, very shy [as a teenager], had an extreme sea of rejection,” he tells Mashable. “One of the things my mother told me was focus on school and one day I’ll be successful, and I can use that generosity [to attract dates].”) and his marketing (photos of lingerie-clad women on their knees lunging for carrots, which he holds over his crotch) is no more accidental than the popularity of his previous cash-for-dates websites.
The Internet is littered with controversial dating sites, many of which are hugely successful. Negative press does nothing more than to bolster sites’ user bases.
Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman thinks Wade “might play the ‘aw shucks’ thing … but knows exactly what he’s doing” and that’s “trying to copy the Ashley Madison playbook.”
Extra-marital dating site Ashley Madison is probably the granddaddy of them all. In 2009, the website had 4.9 million members and ended the year with news of a banned Super Bowl commercial. According Biderman, its February membership rose by 303% as a result. The site now boasts more than 21 million members.
Biderman spoke to Mashable from overseas, where he’s expanding the site into its 31st and 32nd countries, Sweden and Denmark. He says “90% of the conversations we have center around controversy,” which he attributes to the site’s success.
BeautifulPeople.com, a dating site that allows members to decide if a newcomer is attractive enough to join, faces a unique problem: It turns away 75% of its members, Managing Director Greg Hodge tells Mashable via email.
“We have had much controversy over the years, and the spike in traffic and applications to the site over these times has been monumental,” he writes. “It has proven a singular asset to the company and aided in BeautifulPeople becoming a global business and the leading brand in online dating for attractive people.”
CanDoBetter allows users to rate which member of a couple is more attractive, as a means of letting each know if s/he could “do better.” On the platform, users offer dates to members they think can do better. The site gained 23,000 members in its first two months. It now boasts more than 100,000 members and has seen 15 million votes.
Gavin Smith, CanDoBetter’s founder, tells Mashable negative press has been helpful in growth. In response to the below negative news segment, the site’s traffic rose by 28% for 10 days.
Finally, MyFreeImplants.com, a crowd-sourcing website whose sole aim is to enlarge the world’s breasts, was called the “creepiest crowd-funding site ever” in a Slate headline. For a few days following, average traffic to the site went from 4,500 to 9,000 hits per day. The site has now grown to include “tens of thousands” of members.
Scorn will (and probably should) be heaped against Carrot Dating, as it should most of these other websites. Sterbenz and the other critics of the site aren’t wrong, but they are promoting it, intentionally or not.
It very well might be prostitution, but we’d be blind to imagine it won’t be popular.
As Biderman said of his own site, which will likely apply to Carrot Dating, “There might be a lot of people who get really histrionic about it, jump up and down, but there’s other people who say, ‘That’s interesting.’”
And the former fuel the latter.