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Hot Or Not Relaunches

Jun 18 2014, 4:57am CDT | by , in News | Also on the Geek Mind

Hot Or Not Relaunches
 
 

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Hot Or Not Relaunches

Before there was Tinder or OK Cupid, before there was Facebook or MySpace, there was AmIHotOrNot.com. Created in 2000 by two engineering students fresh out of U.C. Berkeley, it hit on a basic human truth all those other services would later exploit: There’s something deeply satisfying about judging other people based on their photos.

Later known by the more manageable name Hot or Not, it more or less disappeared with Pets.com, Suck.com and the rest of the Web 1.0 wonders. But now it’s back, and looking for its due share of the phenomenon it helped birth.

Hot or Not has changed hands several times over the years, but since 2012, the brand has been the property of Andrey Andreev, a Russian-born megamillionaire and founder of the online dating and networking service Badoo. With more than 200 million users worldwide, Badoo is a big player in Europe and Latin America.

In the U.S., however, it’s another story. Despite repeated attempts to break in here, Badoo still had less than 1% market share in September 2013, when the research firm IBISWorld surveyed the sector.

Andreev believes Hot or Not will provide the entree that has eluded him. “I just had a sense that it could be a fast track for us,” he said of his decision to buy it from a private equity company for an undisclosed amount and relaunch it. It’s already established something of a beachhead, with nearly 10 million users, according to Andreev. “Basically, it was a great deal for me,” he says. “People know this brand.”

But the new version released today may strike users as familiar for a different reason. In design and functionality, it’s markedly similar to Tinder, the IAC-owned dating app that has become a phenomenon among singles since it launched two years ago.

Where the original version of Hot or Not asked users to rate the attractiveness of other people’s photos on a 1-to-10 scale, the new one only requires a yes or no similar to Tinder’s swipe right/swipe left interaction. (Andreev says the change was made to accommodate smaller mobile screens.) As on Tinder, users authenticate through Facebook, which allows them to get introduced to others in their extended social networks; when two users rate each other “Hot,” they can begin a chat.

Where Andreev also owns Badoo, IAC has both OK Cupid and Match.com, as well as Meetic, which competes with Badoo in Europe, and a host of other, smaller dating sites. Hot or Not’s logo is even similar to Tinder’s: a flame motif in red and white.

The biggest difference between the two is a conceptual one: Whereas Tinder styles itself a “social discovery tool” whose gamelike appeal is only a means to an end, Hot or Not presents itself first and foremost as a game. Singles can certainly use it to meet each other, but Andreev is aiming much broader than the dating market. He likens it to the difference between a nightclub and a singles mixer: People may go to the first hoping to get lucky, but they also might just be there to dance, to get drunk or to see and be seen.

Features in the new version are meant to broaden it still further. One allows users to see “hot lists” of the top-rated users nearby. Another lets them vote on and see lists of the hottest celebrities. The company plans to publish the data it gathers this way in conjunction with major news events — for instance, declaring the hottest athletes in the World Cup while the tournament is still being decided.

For now, no one’s making any money off Hot or Not. But Andreev says the plan eventually is to introduce some of the same monetizations employed by Badoo, which is reportedly making revenues of more than $200 million a year from premium features like the ability to promote your profile to other users.

“Badoo is one of the most unique and largest monetization platforms in Europe,” Andreev says. “We have a lot of experience. Basically, Hot or Not now has a good father.”

 

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