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


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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


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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.”

The Iranian Regime’s Favorite Sanctions


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“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)