Friday, September 4

Single and Muslim? Well There's A Website Just For You Click for more info

Look, I know I'm tight. And yes I have big ideological issues about paying a third party to meet a prospective partner. I just wanted to get all that out of the way so that I could possibly make a decent point below.

While checking out the profile of a friend, I must admit that I was pretty impressed my singlemuslim.com. Yes it had a lot of the regular features (including umpteen profiles claiming how they "weren't very good at this kind of thing") but had a lot of relevant features too - things like check boxes indicating how much you prayed or whether you had a beard or hijab (but not both, unfortunately). And if I'm being honest, well, there were some quite attractive profiles, both in image and word, across the site as I took a quick looksie. You know, while I was there.

So I registered and it was all very find and very dandy. I was even more impressed once I had - you can see who's been checking out your profile and the site even let me change my username after I decided it wasn't relevant any more (it was "spammy").

But then the cracks started to appear. You know, stuff that, on the whole most people would ignore but couldn't get past my anal retentiveness (you all love it really). I'm talking about things like dodgy pagerank links or the use of blatant models in their advertising (I'm sure I've seen a few of them on telly). These aren't big deals in themselves, but once added up hardly inspire confidence in the people who are running the site. But the biggest issue I have is with the membership structure singlemuslims.com uses.

Unlike other matrimonial sites, the biggest difference here is how singlemuslim.com make full membership free for girls while making guys pay for what they describe as the "gold" level. Now the official line (I read this a while back but can't find it now) is that this is a way of respecting a Muslim woman's right to search, right to decline and underlining the great importance of girlie prerogative, while also (I suppose) prompting men to be men (which means making them reach into their wallets).

Being the cynic I am though, I just don't buy this. You see, although men can't send messages until they're gold, they can't read any that have been received either. It's the ultimate marketing gimmick actually; having three or four girls (hey, I just signed up today, okay?) in your inbox without being able to know what exactly they've written.

Stemming this curiosity while bolstering your ego costs the princely sum of 28 quid a month. That's a rate of over 300 pounds a year, something which I find incredible (although that could just be because I've yet to find a profile worth that kinda money). If you're thinking "well that's just there to encourage you to subscribe for longer", well then you'll be right. Subscribe for a year and it's a much more manageable 120 quid. There's even an unlimited option for £160.

I'll give you a few minutes to think about what's wrong with this set up.

See, unlike mobile phone plans or television subscriptions, matrimonial sites by definition require you to quit and stop paying once they do their job. In that sense they're shooting themselves in the foot, and most of them feel that the best way to do this is to take as much money as possible, based on your own assessment of how well you think you'll do. You're literally betting on your own failure here - what kind of guy would go for the unlimited option? Does he really expect it to take that long (and if so then no website is gonna help him)? And what kind of girl would go for that kind of guy? And of course once a guy pays for a long term membership, he's going to want to use it, regardless of whether he meets a goodun' or not; he may as well keep looking until his membership lapses. In short, paying members are either desperate (enough to pay tons of money for a short term) or losers (who really don't think much of themselves).

There are genuine solutions to this. The main thing is to normalise memberships across genders and to make girls pay - if they want to. To facilitate this, it should be free for all read messages. Regarding the shrewd payment options, a much more honest way would be to stick to the monthly price of 28 pounds, but to cap or reduce it if it happens to take some poor sod a bit longer (so the second month costs 25, the third 20, etc). They could even introduce some kind of pay-per-message option if they wanted us to be really discerning before hitting that "Hello Gorgeous! You look really nice on your picture! Masha'Allah! I'd love to talk to you further, let me know if you'd like to chat some time!" canned message. No really, it's there.

This would all ensure that it's the initiator (be it the guy or the girl) who puts their money where their mouths are when initiating, rather than burdening those getting hit on with the hit (did you see what I did there?). Under the current system girls already do make the first move so there's no decrease of respect here (even though in my humble opinion they always should).

But yes, as it stands it seems to me that certain choice have been made to maximise profit rather than to help people get it on (hooray for Islamploitation!). That's fair enough but I think it's an attitude which may find its way into the beginnings of any relationship borne out of such a site too (although judging by the literature they do seem quite successful).

Honestly, it's enough to get me to start my own matrimonial site, one that is free or perhaps donation based. Of course I'd have a conflict of interest that would make such a thing impossible right now, so for now perhaps I should just start a SM directory, mapping usernames to email addresses?

In the meantime I just hope the girls on the site are enterprising enough to use Google properly. Wink wink and all that.