What Is Driving Iran to Become the First Country to Launch Its Own Matrimony Site?

Leave a comment
Online Dating
(photo credit: AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

As the Founder of IranianPersonals.com, the largest dating site for the Iranian Diaspora, my curiosity was piqued when Iran recently announced plans to combat “immoral” online dating websites by launching an official online matrimony service. While there is no shortage of matchmaking sites across the globe (8,000+ websites according to Forbes), news of a government preparing to launch an official national matchmaking site is unprecedented.

With a population of 10 million people eligible for marriage and rigid social restrictions that hinder opportunities for singles to meet in public, there is strong demand among the youth to find outlets for meeting a spouse; hence the immense popularity of matchmaking sites and social networks. While Iranian internet service providers block access to most matchmaking sites, Iranians are adept at using forbidden VPN services to bypass these restrictions.

In recent statements made by Mr. Mahmoud Golzari, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, 300 matchmaking websites in Iran work under the guise of “hamsar yabi”’ (spouse-finding). Mr. Golzari further says that such sites are unethical and illegally promote short-term marriages, and “to curb such illegal activities, the Ministry (of Sports and Youth Affairs) is designing a website to help youths find their ideal spouse, in collaboration with the Tebyan Institute.

Although there are strict prohibitions against premarital sex in Iran, they are increasingly circumvented by way of “sigheh” — a Shia tradition that permits short-term marriage. Mr. Golzari contends that casual matchmaking websites’ availability has promoted both pre-marital sexual relations — a taboo in Iran — and casual/dating relationships, each regularly condemned as Western/liberal values.

Marriage longevity has also become a serious concern for the government, particularly given their boastful attitude toward the stability of Iran’s families, which are said to be superior to the West’s. Mr. Golzari labeled the significant uptick of divorces in Iran as “worrying.” According to Mr. Golzari, “In Iran, for every five marriages there is one divorce…while in Tehran, [this ratio] is three to one. Eighty percent of people who get divorced in the country are under the age of thirty.”

Another set of government concerns include population growth and birthrate, which after a precipitous fall from 1980–2000 has steadied but remained flat for the last decade at around 1.92 births per woman (2012). Through Iran’s matrimony website, the regime hopes to promote marriage and in the process increase the country’s population.

Iran Birth Rates

What will the world’s first government-created matchmaking site look like? Moreover, will Iranians trust their government and use the service? Will this also serve as a catalyst for other Muslim nations, with strict gender segregation rules, to follow suit and launch their own matrimonial sites — one that fits within their respective religious, social and matrimonial norms? Having met my wife on IranianPersonals.com and as the owner of a matchmaking company, I know that software can empower people to make meaningful connections. Plans to launch a government-backed matrimony site reveal just how important the Iranian regime sees its role as a paternalistic, guiding force in people’s private lives. But software, like governance, is only as effective as the extent to which it meets the true needs of people. Good software development, therefore, requires a feedback loop that incorporates its users’ experience; it requires the developer to listen, learn, and adapt. With Iran’s matrimony site, we may gain the chance to see what type of software developer Iran’s government chooses to be.

(photo credit: AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

A version of this article was published on IranWire

Throwback Friday: The Physics of Online Dating

Leave a comment
Online Dating
Online Dating Forecasting & Physics

For all the data Geeks out there, or anyone interested in the online dating industry, here is a 2013 gem from our COO Darren Romeo that is definitely worth reading. Enjoy!

“World Singles Networks has been building, grooming, and enriching online dating websites for well over a decade.  This experience set provides us a unique perspective on the growth and evolutionary tendencies of dating and personals sites across a wide range of diaspora communities in practically every country on the globe.

When working with a potential publisher to see if our white label technologies and processes are a good fit, and when internally determining which new markets World Singles Networks will enter, we are faced with a few basic questions.

  • What is the potential value?
  • How much cash and leads are necessary to become profitable?
  • When will the site become profitable and at what rate?

At any given point in time, the resources with which we have to grow our enterprises are finite.  Choosing wisely who to partner with and where to invest are critical to the vitality and vigor of any concern.  We needed some structure to frame our conversations and decision-making process so we set out to build our very own predictive model using the organizing metaphor of star dynamics.

In astrophysics, scientists can determine the lifespan and ultimate fates of stars based on their initial mass.  Based on definite and objective criteria, astrophysicists can tell us whether a star will fizzle out and go dark, or if it will become a super-giant.  They can tell us if it will evolve to a white dwarf or explode into a supernova.

With increasing accuracy, so can World Singles Networks when it comes to predicting the growth and performance characteristics of online dating sites.  We can also extrapolate/interpolate such predictions to determine the behavior of dating sites anywhere in the life cycle—launch, to critical mass and beyond.  An added benefit is that the metaphor helps to better align interdepartmental communication as it provides an accessible, agnostic vocabulary of sorts.

In our model, there are three interrelated parts.  The first is the core and its many layers.  It is a snapshot of the people in the database.

Second is radiation which models the particles (messages sent, winks, etc.) generated by the users in the database.

The third, magnetic pull or influence reflects the volume and rate of incoming leads through the various member acquisition pathways we manage and optimize.

The Core and Surrounding Layers

  • {S} Platinum Users (subscription)
  • {D} Platinum Users
  • {A} Active Users
  • {V} Value Profiles
  • {P} Total Profiles
  • {T} Total Population
  • {I} User Photos
  • {RR} Recurring/Repeat Revenue
  • {R} Revenue

Most of these are self-explanatory.  Value Profiles refer to profiles that have been engaged in some way—viewed, winked at, messaged, etc.  Total Population refers to basic census data across a diaspora community in the most significant population areas.


  • Total Emails sent
  • Winks sent
  • Messages sent
  • CRM Emails sent

Radiation refers to the volume of activity based ‘particles’ generated by a particular site.  Sites with high radiation levels are vital and conducive to elevated online numbers and sales.

Magnetic Pull

  • Total Profiles per day
  • Social Media array
  • Affiliate array
  • White Label array
  • SEO array
  • Search and Display array
  • Dark Matter*

Magnetic Pull is what it sounds like—the attractive power of the site via the various member acquisition channels that we operate.  Dark Matter is all of the leads that are not traceable such as word-of-mouth/direct navigation.

When you plot the various inputs above, we see what a particular site or ‘star’ looks like.  (see Figure 1.1)

Figure 1.1

When you compare and contrast what a dozen or so mature stars/sites look like side by side, a pattern emerges.  Based on known characteristics, we see that sites can evolve into a few basic outcomes or classes.  In general, these classes fall on a grid that plots size to brightness.  For instance, a site can be very large with a lot of members but not generate revenue and profits in proportion to its volume—it’s large but dim.  On the other hand, you can have a relatively small site that is extremely profitable—small but bright.  When a site requires more resources than it can justify, it implodes into a ‘black hole.’  Money and time go in but never comes out.

To understand how a new site might behave, we compare its snapshot against the different classes to determine the most probable evolutionary trajectory.  For all outcomes that are not ‘black holes’ we can project the costs to groom the site to maturity with a sense of its expected return over time.”

Did The Real Maz Jobrani Just Stand-Up?

Leave a comment
Human Rights
sMEnKengggkXRciHdwq8XrRXGcS (1)

An open letter to Iranian-American comedian/actor Maz Jobrani 

Hello Maz,

Given that I seldom log in to Facebook, my wife sometimes shares pictures posted by friends and family, along with the occasional frivolous “status update,” which I usually dread hearing.

Last night, prior to going to bed, my wife shared with me two Gaza-related messages that you posted on your Facebook page. Not exactly a topic I want to think about prior to bedtime, but one that has been weighing heavily on our collective minds for the last week. Your posts read…

The comments that ensued on both posts ran the gamut from understanding, supportive, incredulous, to downright indignant.

– Beautifully said Mr. Maz Jobrani

– The problem with your so called position of peace, Maz, is that you’re assuming there’s an equal exchange of violence between Palestinians and Israel — this couldn’t be further from the truth, and you shouldn’t, even inadvertently, perpetuate this misconception.

– it seems all those preaching for peace without acknowledging the injustice’s being committed are doing so from the comfort, safety and distance of far away lands. Wonder if they would still be preaching if THEY were the ones being oppressed?”

– Taking sides is no good for your career still its perfect to feel like human Maz! Open your eyes for a massacre taking place in #Gaza
Please Maz find a better source of news … then post on facebook!

– Thanks Maz, well said. Let’s hope there will be a peaceful solution one day. I don’t have the illusion it will be soon, but someday would already be great.

– Maz….the issue has nothing to do with religion or taking sides….it is about being human and standing against genocide of the people in Gaza….I dont have to be arab to feel with them……but the humanity in me tells me it is terrible wrong for everyone to sit and watch innocent people being killed.

– I agree 100%. As humans we all seek peace, nothing more nothing less.

– The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times for moral crises. Unfollow!

– Thank you!!!! Finally someone with a brain!

– Maz, we have to agree to disagree. What’s wrong is wrong. Israel committing genocide is wrong. The media being muzzled is wrong. (Focusing on the Ukraine to ignore the elephant in the room is wrong.) The USA and Europe suppressing protests is wrong. Israel destroying Palestine is crminal. Israel ignoring UN resolutions is bllshit. Fencesitting is no longer acceptable. Playing Switzerland or being an ostrich or a faux diplomat is no longer acceptable.

– Well said! Only if majority could think like you, we would be very close to peace on earth.

– Are you serious? You would stoop that low as a middle eastern figure just to save your spot in Hollywood?

– Maz I commend you for being neutral…damet garm dadash!

– Beautifully stated. And I so agree.

– Condemning “missile attacks” by Hamas is like condemning punches thrown by a rape victim towards his/her rapist.

– Love this! I am inspired!

And so on.

While it is good that your second post calls for an immediate cease-fire and acknowledges the disproportionate loss of life, I was nonetheless surprised by your statements and what you did not say.

The Maz that I spent time with during his early career years—and whose career I have followed and supported—is a man of high character who boldly stands for what is right. Over the years, you rose up through the ranks of your profession by doing things the right way—treating fans/promoters with respect, doing countless shows for various charities, refusing terrorist roles in movies (at a cost to your earnings), mentoring aspiring comedians, and so much more. You’ve been a great guy and to boot, you are one of our own—an Iranian-American, Middle Easterner whom we are all proud to know and support!

You are a well-liked public figure with a predominantly Middle Eastern fan base, and I can understand that you felt pressure to say something about the events in Gaza and Israel. As such, you chose to take the high-road with a general “kumbaya-peace-love-and-unity” post that amounted to taking no stand at all. That’s your prerogative, and you may indeed have no strong opinion(s) on which side is right or wrong, or ideas for how to fix the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Or, perhaps, like many people reluctant to express themselves for fear of retribution, you simply do not want to be divisive, left to deal with the potential consequences by taking a stand on one side or the other (i.e., upsetting people, losing fans, potential stand-up gigs, roles, etc.). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t—but “high-road” or not, with your comments you ultimately chose to throw yourself into the shifting public Palestinian/Israeli discourse.

If the latter was the impetus for your initial post and subsequent clarification, it’s too bad because what is happening in Israel/Palestine is not about Jews vs Muslims but something much larger that transcends politics, religious affiliations, etc.: It’s about humanity, specifically the repeated and ongoing Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians.

For far too long, the media, lobby groups and politicians have beaten it in our heads that any public criticism of Israel’s policies is veiled in Anti-Semitism. I can tell you that the first time that I thought of publicly expressing criticism of Israel (below), it felt as though I was doing something wrong. I felt concern about offending people, as well as the unforeseen consequences of my words—I hesitated and felt unsure of myself. Yet, I couldn’t shut off my feelings and conveniently sweep them under the rug. Finally, while visiting the Palestinian territories, I had seen and researched enough to stand up for what in my heart and mind I know to be the truth; a truth that, left untold, will continue to dehumanize the Palestinian people.

Yes, Maz, having Israelis AND Palestinians living peacefully is what you, many others and I support. Sadly, making general token statements is, at best, a platitude that does not make one iota of difference in accomplishing your stated hope for peace. Frankly, you would have been better off not saying anything at all. Anything short of voicing strong support for justice for the Palestinian people are empty sound-bites which only reinforce an entrenched false equivalence. Until we decide to boldly stand for justice, history will sadly continue to repeat itself.

Hopefully, the Maz that we have come to love (and want you to continue being) will confront what is really happening beyond the platitudes and embrace what is required of all of us to help bring peace.

Your friend,


 (first published July 24th, 2014 on Iranian.com)

The Iranian Regime’s Favorite Sanctions

Leave a comment
Human Rights / Social Media

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.”– Kofi Annan

Technology and innovation are celebrated in the United States like no other country in the world. We foster a culture of entrepreneurship and openness that encourages people to dream big, take risks and build amazing companies that help sustain and vitalize our economy. We are a nation that embraces progress to better the human condition. However, sanctions against Iran that prevent ordinary Iranians from accessing communication tools are antithetical to this spirit and play directly into the hands of an oppressive Iranian regime that views technology and the flow of information as an existential threat.

With the sham Iranian presidential elections just weeks away and lessons learned from the 2009 Green Movement protests as well as Arab Spring uprisings at the forefront of our minds, the Iranian regime is intent on further restricting and choking off any and all communication channels that threaten its hold on power. According to a recent report by opposition website Kaleme, Internet speeds have increasingly slowed as the June elections approach and popular Google services, including Gmail and Google Plus, have been restricted over the past few weeks. In a further attempt to strangle the free flow of information, the regime has blocked access to “illegal” virtual private networks (VPNs), which are widely used by the people to circumvent government filtering. These actions clearly show that those in power in Iran are keenly aware of the disrupting potential of such services as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and so on.

Unfortunately, biting U.S. communication sanctions actually bolster the repressive Iranian regime’s goal of further isolating its population. Many of the goods and services, which in 2009 helped the Green Movement organize and document the regimes crackdown, have been placed under sanction. With that, we have lost a space for the greater good, an important intelligence resource, and a real-time pulse on the true sentiments of the people, which ultimately translates into increased opacity. What can be seen as overreaching sanctions include bans on cell phones, laptops, commercial software and encryption tools like VPNs, services including satellite internet access and web hosting, and financial transactions that facilitate the transfer of these goods and services. To put in perspective the scope and degree of the current U.S. communication sanctions, even online dating services like Match.com are barred from permitting Iranians in Iran from registering on their site. Perhaps it is safe to assume that dating is not a national security risk.

With the existing sanctions in place, Iranians aspiring for democratic reform may very well look at us and think, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” Freedom of information and the technological tools that facilitate exchange are pillars of open and prosperous societies; thus it begs the questions: Are such monolithic sanctions furthering our strategic and economic interests? Does the current incarnation of our policies support the Iranian people who seek greater freedoms and inclusion in the larger world community? It seems that we have taken one of our greatest strengths and tied it firmly behind our backs.

With the Iranian presidential elections only a few weeks away and an increasingly heavy handed Iranian regime bent on preventing its people from meaningfully participating in the political process, organizing, peacefully protesting, accessing information and sharing freely with the rest of world, it is paramount that we urge and support President Obama to take action and ease sanctions on benign communication tools and technologies. Such inexact sanctions not only undermine the democratic aspirations of many Iranians; in fact, they run counter to the very spirit of our nation—a nation that finds resource, resolve and strength in liberty that we, at our best, aspire to complete with enduring fidelity.

Action Alert: Please click here to tell Obama to lift sanctions on communications tools.

(this article was first published on May 29, 2013 on Iranian.com)