Eharmony Operational Details.

Details about eharmony operations from job postings.

http://www.prohire.com/candidates/jobprofile.cfm?szWID=11371&szCID=51171&szOrderID=305817&szReturnto=careerportal

1.   350 million pageviews a month.
2.  1 million emails per day.
3.   140+ servers per datacenter,  eharmony has multipul datacenters
4.  1,000 transactions per second in DB

If you take a look at Match.com,  Spark networks and yahoo personals they are all about the same in terms of operational costs.   No one other than plentyoffish can support 350 million pageviews a month for under a million dollars a month.  That only covers the cost of developers, tech people and hardware/hosting!

Many people look at plentyoffish and see the fact that its a site with a ton of traffic as the highlight and major accomplishment.   I see my greatest accomplishment  as developing a way to serve a billion pageviews a month off only a handful of machines at next to no cost.  

At the end of the day, my infrastructure and the fact i have no employees is my greatest competitive advantage.  There are other free sites now,  with 10-20 employees each and 1/20th to 1/30th my traffic.   Even with free/paid hybrid models I can’t see any of these sites generating enough revenue to reach profitability and achieve scale.

36 Responses to “Eharmony Operational Details.”

  1. facethejury Says:

    It’s certainly a great accomplishment and I congratulate you.

    Back at the height of my site’s (http://www.facethejury.com) success around 2004 I guess, and when I actually had interest in it, I was serving 150 million pageviews/month running iis 5.0 and SQL Server 2000 off of 2 single CPU web servers and 1 Single CPU DB server as the only employee of my company. I don’t think it is really that difficult to accomplish once it becomes a necessity.

    For me, and I’m guessing for you as well, it was more out of necessity than anything else, as I’m betting you have a hard time delegating and trusting others to do work for you. I simply don’t trust anyone to do what I know I will do correctly, so I work alone. There are good and bad sides to this I guess.

  2. Mike Says:

    Markus, its interesting that you feel your greatest accomplishment is the technical aspect of what you do. When really that is the easy part. There is nothing technically significant about POF, its an incredibly simple site that really doesn’t do that much behind the scenes.

    Technically comparing POF to the majority of the other dating sites is like comparing apples and oranges. POF doesn’t have any advanced matching techniques, no personality tests, it doesn’t show stats to users like Match does, you just recently added the ability to see who has viewed your profile, and the ability to send roses to other members. As far as dating sites go POF is about as simple as they can possibly come.

    Adding features requires hardware, its no wonder POF doesn’t require a lot of hardware, because it barely has any features to deal with.

    Creating a web site that can serve billions of page views/month is EASY. Any developer/sysadmin worth minimum wage can do that. What the site is actually capable of doing in those billion page views is what sets them apart.

    Try serving a billion page views/month when each page view is dealing with money, invoicing, account balances and calculating taxes/shipping costs on orders where concurrency issues come into play. Its a completely different ball game then virtually static profile pages and a few range searches based on location.

    In my opinion POF’s major accomplishment is its user base. Its also the only reason why you are still on top, because that isn’t something you can throw smart people at and have happen overnight. It takes years to do and it is more of an art then a science. Luck and timing can also play a large roll in it.

    If it was only a matter of solving technical issues, there would be 100 sites doing better then POF is right now.

  3. Markus Says:

    That is like saying google is trivial because all you see is a search box with a search button.

    The whole point of making a great system especially for a free site is to make people not even realize it exists. This way they can’t screw around with it.

  4. Neal Says:

    I agree with Markus on this one. Sounds like Mike – you are coming from the marketing dept. lol There’s a reason why 80% of an IT dept’s budget is spent on a project *after* launch. There’ a ton of stuff under the hood for any significant system that isn’t expressed by a button or a user feature. Sometimes the functionality you *don’t* noticed is the most meaningful functionality (aka spam filtering, automation, etc).

  5. facethejury Says:

    I agree with Mike to some extent, but I think in all actuality your true success lies in your SEO techniques. There is no big trick to a dating site as far as functionality goes. Give them a way to post pictures and communicate and that’s it. It’s been the same for the last 10 years.

    The main commodity a dating site has is members. More members = better site. The main way people find dating sites is word of mouth and search. Once you were able to build a solid user base through search and buying cheap text links on sites like mine, you were able to set the snowball in motion. You reached a critical mass where you had enough members to then rely on word of mouth and here you are.

    Now is that easy to do? No. But it is repeatable. You’re just probably much more diligent than everyone else.

  6. Mike Says:

    Markus, comparing POF to Google is like comparing Anna Nicole Smith to Einstein. I know what goes into a dating site and its no where even remotely close to what goes into a search engine. There is a reason why there are hundreds if not thousands of dating sites for every one (real) search engine out there.

    To be honest POF is one of the worst “mainstream” sites I’ve ever been too. It has tons of issues, everything from pages not loading, messages not getting sent the first time (I get duplicates sent to me all the time, and accidentally send them too because of this), to forms not submitting for unknown reasons, leaving the user to ‘trial and error’ to figure out why. My favorite is when I send a message, it says: “Message Sent”, but never shows up in my Sent box, and of course never actually gets sent. Not to mention the terrible interface and inconsistencies that are all over the place.

    I can pick out things all over your site that you have either a) over looked, or b) done for optimization purposes. Things like only showing when a member was last online when your searching, but not actually on their profile where you actually attempt to CONTACT them is annoying as hell. Also the fact that I often get people trying to IM me long after I have logged off (pressed the actual logoff button) and having them frustrated and accusing me of “ignoring” them or “being an asshole” to mention just a few.

    If the front end of your site is that bad, I can only imagine the nightmare that is the backend.

    Its fine if you feel the technical side of POF is your greatest accomplishment, but if I were you I wouldn’t be shouting it from the roof tops.

  7. Mayo Says:

    Oghhh…

    Mike your such a full of s##&… of course you keep thing “simple & stupid”, it’s all about visitors and service that is great but not all mighty. I am sure that TheHun.com is making more PROFIT than eHarmony and POF combined, well at least it’s making more profit than POF…. (^_^)
    It’s not about all that mighty machines, it’s about your mind… can you run the service on the EDGE? Can you run 500K monthly page views from your LAPTOP and nothing more than 256UL adsl….???? See there is the fun, when you get into similar shoes like Markus has then you can do what you want, you can grow to the behemoth that is bigger than all of them(BIG players) or you can harvest that “small” profits all by your self and dodge the hassle of employing 100’s of personnel…
    To the likes of Mike: put your mouth where the money is… then talk. It’s like the local bar where bunch of bozo’s talk how Bill Gates should run his business, or how the president of US should run the country, how it’s intricate, and that he should have your intricate mind as assistant to help him run the country…
    For God sake, live your life and try to learn at least something… if you want to flame around then go to the bozo.com forum and flame there because you are not ready to LEARN!

  8. Mike Says:

    Lol Mayo… What does profit and keeping things simple have anything to do with technical achievement which is what Markus’ has stated he is most proud of?

    My only point is that POF is FAR from a technical achievement. It IS a huge achievement as far as popularity, user base and profit is concerned though, no one can doubt that.

    From the outside looking in POF is terrible from a technical standpoint. I obviously don’t know whats going on behind the scenes, but if Markus is so proud of his achievements I urge him to write a paper describing them like many other popular sites have done.

    I would eat my hat if it he ever does this and it turns out he is actually doing something special. Buying 16 or 32 processor servers is not what I consider special either.

  9. Joe Says:

    Mike, you keep harping on “technical achievement” or other technical merits or failures.

    Reread what Markus wrote: “I see my greatest accomplishment as developing a way to serve a billion pageviews a month off only a handful of machines at next to no cost.” It seems you’re reading it as “my greatest *technical* accomplishment”, as if Markus was proud of the number of features, or how ingenious or foolproof or elegant those technical features are. But that’s not what he said.

    My analogy for what Markus has done is this. Imagine a small town sports team with an inexpensive but large enough arena/stadium. Imagine that team making it to the big leagues like the NBA, etc., and competing with and drawing in crowds just like the Lakers. Imagine them doing this while spending a tenth or less of what the big teams do, with a single head coach and no star players. That’s certainly an accomplishment.

  10. Markus Says:

    Plentyoffish has a major matchmaking system that runs in the background. You can’t create a major dating site without one.

  11. Mike Says:

    Markus, please tell me you’re not referring to your “My Matches” page.

    Quote:
    1. Your match also has to be willing to talk to someone your age to be displayed here.
    2. If you specified you don’t want messages from someone looking for friends etc they will not be shown here.
    3. New Search –> Users who haven’t gotten an email in over 24 hours sorted by last online.

    So let me get this straight, it considers a “match” based on the fact that I haven’t explicitly excluded them, and they haven’t explicitly excluded me and they haven’t gotten an email in the last 24hrs? Is this what you consider your “major matchmaking system”?

    Personally I would consider this more of an “email load balancing” technique to try and urge members to email those who aren’t getting emails already for whatever reason (probably crappy profiles).

    Hardly a “major matchmaking system” worth writing home about. Especially when you consider (in my experience) the vast majority of members exclusions (if any) go like this:

    You must between 20 – 35
    You must live in Canada

  12. Martin Says:

    I am enjoying the comparisons though!

    Let me do one, like comparing Mike Tyson to Elmer Thudd. Oooh can I do another one?

  13. Markus Says:

    I’d be an idiot to break down here what is going on in the backend. There is nothing to gain, and just a bunch of copycats who would try and copy.

    Since you aren’t in the industry or even related to it, you wouldn’t understand short of walking you throw it line by line. THose in the industry know just how hard this sort of thing is.

  14. G Says:

    Here is an interesting look at the operational details of some Web 2.0 companies:

    http://royal.pingdom.com/royalfiles/0702_infrastructure_matrix.pdf

  15. Mike Says:

    Markus, its not the copycats that I would be worried about. In fact the more they waste time trying to copy you means less time they are trying to do something new and different.

    What good does copying something that is already free and well established do? Seems like a sure fire way to waste time and money.

    Are there any dating sites out there actually trying to do something NEW? Beyond adding blogs, hundreds of personality tests, private telephone chat rooms and hyped “Web 2.0” features that offer no real value?

  16. Mayo Says:

    @Mike
    “Are there any dating sites out there actually trying to do something NEW? Beyond adding blogs, hundreds of personality tests, private telephone chat rooms and hyped “Web 2.0″ features that offer no real value?”

    Hmmm… you know there are many “innovative” stuff that busted in the beginning of this millennium. The process of “innovative” stuff is based on old stuff that you tweak, refine and end up getting a completely new product. Now Mike can you show us completely new product that you made up and that will work of the first charm?! There is NO innovation there is only TWEAKED innovation… i.e. you get old idea, mesh it with new idea that you got in the process and out of it you got a new “innovation” that you can even patent if you want…
    I for sure will start with old ideas and tech that people are accustomed with, only with that in place can you “innovate”…

  17. Mike Says:

    Mayo, okay, are there any dating sites that have “tweaked” the “matching” process beyond personality tests and basic age,location,marital status searches?

  18. Mayo Says:

    No…..🙂 any ideas? if you can patent an interesting algorithm system in intermediate future i would gladly put necessary funds to bid for your patent! (^_^)

  19. Mayo Says:

    That is if i could even get into possession of such funds.. aahhh sweet MM’s… (^_^)

  20. Jonathan Frate Says:

    Why can’t you all just get along?

    I will agree with Markus that it’s not easy to run a one man shop and do it profitably without employees, and his ability to server all these people’s needs rapidly and do it at low cost is an achievement.

    I will also agree with the poster that’s stirring the pot. When money and transactions are involved, the game changes 500%!! You need those extra servers to deal with real time transactions and the reliability and expectation level of customers who have paid.

    Markus, when you have a hicup, people can’t complain. It’s free after all. When the paid sites have a hiccup, they’re scrood. So they have to have more servers and more reliability and capacity planning etc.

    I would say markus’s core innovation and competitive advantage is to create a new category – unpaid dating – and be the biggest and most well known in the category. The market leader in any category always gets a disproportionate volume of traffic/revenue/attention/hatemail.

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  23. Bender Says:

    Hm… sorry Markus, but you can’t compare POF with other Web 2.0 sites!

    Just add those things to your site and you’ll see, that your “superb” system will crash:

    – “realtime”-useronline-list (with AJAX)
    – instant messenger
    – chat
    – …

    Useronline is simple and makes not much traffic? But what when you order all online users like this: friends / favorites / others?! Much queries to the database! Also you have to exclude all blocked contacts a.s.o.

    Im my opinion POF is really outdated… you should go with the time and update some things and add new features.

  24. Markus Says:

    Why would I want to add stuff that is already on the site?

    I have a real time whose online. The userplane IM results in 500,000,000,000 million pageviews/calls to the database per DAY. Judging from your other comments I doubt you’ve ever even logged into the site.

  25. Bender Says:

    Hm… can’t find any self-refreshing (!) useronline-list on your site…

    The IM is not realtime… refreshing only after every 5 – 8 seconds right?

    Also new messages from the same user open in a new popup and not in the existent…

    “500,000,000,000 million pageviews/calls” … you mean 500 billions? .-)

  26. foobar Says:

    “500,000,000,000 million pageviews/calls” … you mean 500 billions? .-)

    No, if you read exactly what he wrote then he means 500 billion million pageviews / calls to database per day.😉

  27. Markus Says:

    crap ment 500 million.

    If it was down to 1 second, there would be 4 billion calls a day to the DB, and outbound 240mb/sec of 0kb files. The traffic comes from host headers and requests.

  28. Bender Says:

    @Markus:

    To decrease the traffic just enhance the refresh-time to users that are not busy enough…

    For example: The last click of the user is older than 5 minutes -> the refresh-time will be enhanced to 1 minute.

  29. Markus Says:

    Problem is women already get bombarded by IM’s when loggin in. If I cut down the time it would be a steady stream of popups. 30% of women turn off the IM because they are flooded within the first few days. I’m trying to figure out ways of keeping interactivity down so the site is still usable.

  30. vanchau Says:

    Markus – you do indeed have done something very unique. My last company was a monster too and at one point was top 50 Alexa (ezboard.com). We had tons of servers, but it ran on a lean staff. that’s why it survived the DOT.bomb

    Very few people can duplicate what you have done. We also see vulnerability in some of the incumbents in our space and that’s why we’re here. I think in the future, our kinds of sites/companies will be the dominant players.

    Originally, it was dating oriented companies moving onto the Internet. We are the Internet guys moving into dating. Guess who we think will win?

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  33. rapidleech Says:

    hi,
    I am very glad to thank yousharing this post.I also appreciate your work here.nice blog

  34. Shawn Says:

    heated discussion:)

  35. Dan Says:

    Interesting article and great points there! Cory Skyy

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