What is the Plenty Of Fish (plentyoffish.com) dating site all about?

After being inundated with “you should check it out” countless times by so many of my friends, I decided – “sure, ill check it out”. Plenty Of Fish (POF) is a dating site that professes to be completely free. On this site, you don’t have to pay to message anyone, view profiles or meet. For this reason, POF tends to be a very popular sit. POF also offers an upgrade for as much as $80.68 if you want to be highly featured. The last time I looked more than 171,000 users were online.
Now, I have to get one thing out of the way. While, I have (at the time of writing this) been single for close to 8 months – my core motivation for being on POF was curiosity. I tend to have an opinion about dating sites that would be best served in another blog post. Needless to say, if I had met a women, that would be great – but it was not my core motivator. If you are single and curious, or if you are not single and wondering what people are talking about – let me show you.

How does it work?
At the signup stage you are asked for all sorts of basic information and essentially told that you “have to” include a picture. As the signup progresses, you are then asked to pick a username (because of the sheer volume of users, expect to use random characters – I went with fcgx). Also, you are given a basic screening test to determine “matches” that the site purports to find. One of the more interesting aspects of the site is the lack of screening involved. You are free to change you picture, profile details and description without it being approved later. In fact, the changes appear to take effect immediately. When you first login, you’re served a deceptively simple page:
The POF home screen – click to get a closer view
My profile page was the central point of interest in the beginning. I went back to it several times to tweak my message. My intent was to make the message as simple as possible an include a few pictures that give others an idea of what I looked like.

I had heard from others that using older pictures was a problem on the site. I was an offender nonetheless, placing a number of pictures that date back a year or more. Based on what I had seen early on, my “description” section was longer and more in-depth than most users.
Not so fast, this is different

What became immediately apparent after using the site for a few minutes - the intention here was for me to meet a woman by way of volume and speed. Many parts of the site were built to get you connected to others – fast. One example of this is the “Meet Me” section. When I first saw this, I was thinking something like Hot or Not (remember that one?). What I found was that I was simply clicking “No” numerous times not knowing exactly what the impact of the actions were. 

After a few days it was clear that clicking on “No” did nothing (but possibly changing a background algorithm), clicking on “Yes” would send a notification message to that user, and “Maybe” – that was not clear what the effect would be. When receiving notification messages, the email subject line is cleverly crafted as to not mention Plenty of Fish or POF.

Also interesting here, is that much of the interface lends itself to sending a massive number of messages (hint: use a templates message you just paste in for best results). Given that, I could, in one sitting, send out more than 100 simple messages to prospective women easily; I had the feeling POF might have been designed specifically as the Twitter of dating sites. You could send a full long-form message to a user – but there was also this small, “Quick Message” box there starting at you waiting for you not to form a full sentence.


Over the few days i was on the site I received a number of messages like “I’m curious too” or “Curiosity killed the cat”. I didn’t know what to make of that. This all reminds me of a joke a friend made some years ago about picking up women:


“All you do is go up to every woman that look good and ask her to have sex with you – you bound to find one that says yes”. POF is probably the site for him.

Online/Offline

While on the site (or Online), your odds of others seeing you and interacting with you go up considerably. When you are online, your more likely to be featured on most of the interaction functions and contacted. Others users can see your online status as a small message below your picture that says either “Online Now” or “IM User”. What’s great about this is all the information you’re given right from the get-go. You can tell which users are currently available, which ones are willing to chat and even get a list of users that have “Viewed” you. This is the most information about others I have ever seen on a dating site (admittedly, it’s been years since the last time).


Instant messaging is supported, by way of what appears to be a flash module. I found it was serviceable, but not something many users would like. The small buzzing sound when a new message arrived was handy when the chat window was covered. Also a very nice feature is the ability to see a picture of the person you’re talking too while chatting. That really does add to connecting a person’s personality online with who they really are.


Curious limit options

Also somewhat hidden in POF’s interface the option to limit who can talk to you as well as a number of other things. You’ll notice me asking about this feature in the chat above. Accessing these limits happens in the “Inbox” section of the site and then “Mail Settings”. I found that you can really control what kind of people contact you – very impressive. 



Some of the site was very unusual too – for example – the choice of advertising was seriously wrong sometimes. I wonder if the women who are on POF actually know that what’s presented next to their picture is sometimes this:

Really, what are men going to see first?

I started to wonder how this connects with the whole “speed” theme. If men are on this site seeking to connect to women in volume, distracting them with these unusual ads may run counter to that.

The site is truly busy
That seems to be the design goal of POF – make the site as busy as possible. The effects of clicking links are not 100% clear – accessing all of the features of the site are not possible from the home screen, and in most places you find yourself on POF – there is no “Home” link to take you back to the first page. What I do appreciate about a site like this, however is the obvious lack of “free” tactics you find on others sites, like the lack of:
- Various click popups, pop-unders and full screen ads

- Moving ads or unpredictable ad locations on the screen

- Heavy Javascript usage to control user experience
- Overuse of flash animations or graphic elements
Bottom Line
If you are looking for that “someone” you sure could do worse than Plenty of Fish. other dating sites make money of some of the basic things you do here for free. For that, and the sheer number of people on the site – you’re bound to find someone to love. If you are in a relationship now – consider your curiosity quenched.
The owner of POF also has a blog, check it out here. Something that may also be interesting is the list of POF success stories.
Also well-hidden is the process to delete your account. To do that (as of this writing):
1. Log into POF
2. Click “Help”
3. Click “Delete my Account” – this should be in the third row of links
The button’s name seems appropriate

I’m no longer using Plenty of Fish – to be sure – five days was enough for me. And, during my five day experiment I sent about 5 messages back and forth, and the number of women I met in-person: none. Do you have experiences or thoughts about POF? Share!

Published Dec 09 2010 by