Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Niche Dating Sites

Matt Muro was tired of the online dating scene. The Harvard University computer programmer felt most Web-based dating sites weren’t connecting with his interests.

“I was doing some online dating myself, and I was on a number of sites myself, and I wanted something that felt more natural,” Muro said.

So Muro created, an online dating site that’s a little bit MySpace and a little bit The key difference: is a place for people with very similiar interests - from parasailing to beer pong - hook up.

Like other dating sites, Cambridge-based LifeKnot lets users create profiles and meet others with similiar interests. But those sites often lump too many activities together, Muro said. “Some activities you don’t normally find on a social networking or dating site,” he said.

But with and MySpace raking in money, many small start-ups are trying to get in on the action, launching online dating sites dedicated to niche categories. And that heavy push might be creating a glut of Internet dating services.

In the Boston area alone there are Web sites for everything from Red Sox fans to hard rock fans.

LifeKnot goes up against such sites as Rock N’ Roll Dating - - and, a Web service that links up fellow Sox fans.

“I think it’s already over-saturated,” said Rich Savoie, founder of Rock N’ Roll dating, which lets users sign up to meet at local rock shows.

For sites like LifeKnot, making it in a crowded market is tough, and word-of-mouth may no longer be enough.

LifeKnot, which currently offers all of its services for free, already has 12,000 registered users. Even so, Muro recently began advertising on the MBTA’s Red Line to garner more interest.

Breaking in with a new concept is easy because of the technology. But most new dating services will likely be eclipsed by the big players, said Tim Ferriss, a lecturer in high-tech entrepreneurship at Princeton University.

“There are new dating sites that specialize in everything from concert goers to rock climbers, but I expect that we’ll see massive consolidation as the top three sites simply add the features that prove popular in smaller start-ups,” he said.