I am very glad I had a chance to take interview with Darren. He is a very nice person and I was really satisfied with his interesting and unpredictable answers.
osDate is very popular. There are many programmers, webmasters who adore this dating script and create new addons, new templates. osDate community is very big. I recommend you to start your dating site with osDate if you have limited budget.
Enjoy reading the interview!
UD: Please, introduce yourself to the readers.
Darren: I’m a 33-year-old entrepreneur from Los Angeles, California. I have an MS in computer science, and live alone. I’ve been operating www.TUFaT.com since 1999.
UD: Why have you created dating script?
Darren: I created osDate because I noticed that most of the free PHP dating scripts at the time were of very poor quality. The higher quality ones were very expensive, sometimes as much as $700. Also, no dating script at that time had a good zip code proximity feature, which I believe is essential.
The idea struck me that I could create and maintain an effective dating script for free by just selling "skins". Not all customers would want additional skin, which is fine, but I believed that enough would to support the project. The sale of skins has been keeping osDate going for several years now.
UD: How many people work with you?
Darren: On the osDate project, I have one full-time programmer, Vijay Nair. During development, as many as five programmers and designers worked on osDate, although only one is needed at the moment to maintain the system. Vijay helps resolve customer issues on the support forum, and provides patches and updates for bugs. He also periodically helps to develop new features.
UD: When first osDate package was released? Was it good enough?
Darren: The first osDate package was released in 2004, and was far from adequate. However, even the first iteration of osDate probably came close to meeting the feature lists of existing dating systems. Since then we have been iteratively improving osDate. Of course, every version is 100% free and open-source.
UD: Do you love osDate as much as dating webmasters do?
Darren: osDate is sort of like my "baby". Like a real baby, I nurture and take care of it. Webmasters of dating sites probably test a variety of dating systems before settling on one. Webmasters can change systems, or discontinue use of a system if they don’t like it.
I have never entertained the possibility of discontinuing osDate. It would be like killing my own baby. It will never happen. I’d like osDate to continue until the day I die (and beyond!). I’m in excellent health, so that won’t be for a long time.
UD: What’s your dream about osDate? It is really popular.
Darren: My dream is to create a system that is competitive with major commercial dating sites like Match.com. These are systems that have millions of dollars of development behind them, and really top-notch interface designs.
I think that the interface design of osDate needs to be upgraded, so that it has a sleeker and more professional finish. I’d like to fully integrate video chat by default into osDate. Currently, video chat is possible using the FlashChat add-on, but it’s not yet native to osDate. It will be at some point in 2008 or 2009, however.
UD: Have you ever been really surprised with what webmasters do to osDate in design or may be in some extra addons?
Darren: Absolutely. I’m continually amazed at the add-ons that other programmers introduce. Some other webmasters sell their add-ons and skins, which I think is fantastic. I’m very supportive of other programmers who wish to make money from osDate.
In fact, it is completely legal to re-sell osDate. You could tweak it with your add-on, re-name it, and then re-sell it for a lot of $. I have no problem with that.
UD: Some people say online dating is almost dead. What do you think?
Darren: I think that a few dating websites, like Match.com, have dominated the online dating market, and effectively "squeezed out" the little guys. They do this not because their dating systems are better, but because they’ve marketed their websites better. I live in the United States, and see Match.com advertisements all the time on television. eHarmony.com is another such site.
Online dating as a concept is very much alive. I’m always meeting people who have dated online, and even married those they met online. If you want to start a successful dating website, you need to think about clever /marketing/ strategies.
UD: What do you think lead dating sites to success?
Darren: There is success in numbers. No one want to join a dating website when there are only 100 members. People want to join dating websites that have millions of members. The key is to attract a large user base quickly, perhaps by offering free memberships for the first X users. Finding a good "niche" is also important.
I have a friend who started a dating website for salsa dancers in the Southern California area. It’s incredibly popular, even with only a thousand members. It’s successful because people feel that they’re connecting to a very special community. JDate is a better-known example of this. The Jewish dating scene is not extremely large, but JDate is very successful.
UD: Your favorite dating site if any?
Darren: Probably Match.com (I hate to admit it, though!). Their interface design is very simple and easy to navigate. Sometimes it’s better to have fewer features, not more features. There are a lot of people who are new to the Internet who are overwhelmed by a lot of options on their screen.
I sometimes advise osDate users to /deactivate/ features, rather than add more features, to simplify the user interface.
UD: Some words for the readers, some advices or just thoughts))
Darren: My advice: if you want to start a dating site, do it! It’s essentially free. osDate is free, of course… and you can get a domain and web hosting for less than $30/year.
So there really is little to no start-up capital. If you have a good marketing angle, you can really make some money. Think about it: you’re selling /access/, not a tangible product. There is no shipping to deal with, and there are no product returns. There is no inventory to keep track of either. A successful dating website practically mints its own money.
Well, I hope you get some ideas))