America Online is unveiling a new online personals service today dubbed, the company’s latest attempt to find a way to turn its robust but free instant messaging service into a revenue-generating enterprise.

AOL officials are betting that the scale and scope of its instant messaging market — 50 million active users, up to 5 million online at any given time, and more than 1 billion instant messages daily — will attract computer users eager to meet that special someone in cyberspace. Rather than playing hard to get or asking users to make a commitment upfront, AOL is offering for free through Valentines Day.

“What we are doing is opening the world’s largest bar and restaurant for folks who want to meet each other,” said Steven McArthur, executive vice president of AOL Messaging. “It is something we think it is in the sweet spot of assets we have.”

I don’t see how this can possibly work. After all, most people meet potential suitors on television reality shows these days. IM’ing is a distinct step backwards.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    Subsequent to this announcement, has announced that they will start a website known as


  2. James Joyner says:

    I’m guessing classes are over at Citrus University?

  3. John Lemon says:

    Nope. I’m just bored with grading and the SCOTUS decision really got under my skin. Like many of the aging hippie generation, I had to speak “truth to flowers” or something like that.

  4. James Joyner says:


    I even write a mini-ode to John Lennon last night!

  5. jen says:

    I had a witty/snarky response to your post and I lost it when the phone rang. Stupid work gets in the way every time!

  6. Did anyone see the little factoid in yesterday’s WSJ: 30% of people to dating web sites are already married. My guess this service will have similar statistics.