A Piece of the Action

Dean Curruthers
Catering to both swingers pursuing playtime and singles seeking that special someone, adult-oriented dating sites have grown exponentially in the past decade. From Friend Finder to True (found regularly as a MySpace banner) to I Want U and so many more, these relationship outlets have become portals of profit for mainstream websites, which now regularly feature banners and links, as well as adult sites, which incorporate those sites to their pages for individual branding. is among the most successful dating and swinging sites, having multiplied its profit by a staggering 200 percent. "We launched in 1996 and recently celebrated our 10-year anniversary," said Keith Bussey, director of operations. The North American company began in Montreal, though it is now based out of Costa Rica, having relocated for tax advantages.

"In the first couple of years, we were doing many different projects and didn't focus on dating until around 2000, 2001," he said. "It was a better move. We're making two and half times what we were making a couple of years ago and it keeps growing."

Bussey sees various factors at work. "A lot more swingers are getting online and they're some of our best customers because they're in that lifestyle," he said. "And a lot of growth is due to our business-to-business relationships with other adult companies. We offer a private labeling feature that's a lot more advanced than our other competitors and creates opportunities for people. In fact, one big site treated as competing with us is actually powered by IWantU, and there are other dating programs nobody knows that are powered by our company."

IWantU now handles more than 3,000 private label sites for adult dating, customized for each client. "They can target it, use their own domain name," he said. "One of the bigger ones purely gets swinger traffic."

Options such as a mainstream dating interface and switching functions for a more adult-themed interface are also appealing to a wide array of sites, though adult content and dating dominates, taking 80 percent of the business.

The key to future growth comes with expanding site elements. "Right now, we're focusing on adding more advanced features," Bussey said. "We're working with a large telephone company to provide free anonymous phone numbers in the U.S.; we're also adding eight more languages to the website, which is currently available in English and Spanish."

The visual components of dating sites are also in transition. "We're getting more multi-media capacity for video and the uploading of video galleries, just like the photo galleries we offer now. And webcams are of course, one of our most popular features. We're also adding blogging; the more we can get them to remain by having more features, the more money we make.

In the coming years, look for international expansion as the global Internet community continues to cross-connect.

"Most of the business is still in America, but the other languages we're targeting are in European and Asian markets," he said. "We have some features we want to push in China, where they can't browse porn of any kind on a computer, but can still access it on a mobile phone. So we're looking at two different interfaces — one more mainstream for the web and the other, adult for the phones. In Japan, we're also pushing the adult interface."

The approach in Europe will also be different; rather a monthly or annual membership fee, a pay-by-use system will be put into effect. "It'll be pay as you go, tokens as you need them, such as for watching webcams, sending messages and so on. Europeans are more used to that kind of usage already," Bussey said. "That's the way they view it — they only want to pay for exactly what they use, but American culture, they want unlimited access through the one fee. We're trying to accommodate both."