Web site provides a new way to date

Nichol Nelson

When David Shuler wanted a date, he didn’t use flowers, candy or poems. He didn’t even make a phone call.
Instead, Shuler, a freshman in marketing, wrote an e-mail to get the attention of freshman Sara Bowsher, a political science major.
“I just told her I wanted to see her,” Shuler said.
Bowsher responded favorably. The two later hooked up in person at a University fraternity-sorority exchange, but both credit Shuler’s e-mail with sparking their relationship.
As the popularity of e-mail and the Internet rises, students are using alternative means to initiate the dating process. Four roommates at Harvard University decided to capitalize on that trend, creating a Web site that allows students to find matches without face-to-face contact.
The free service is called DateSite, and its premise is simple: Tell someone you like them without fear of rejection.
Users log in with their name and e-mail address and are asked to enter up to seven people they are interested in. The program then sends an e-mail to each of the seven people, telling them, “Someone likes you.”
The sender is not identified to the potential match. The e-mail recipient is told to go to the DateSite page to find out the identity of the person who sent the e-mail.
But the name of the sender is not revealed unless the second person enters them as one of their potential love interests. If the automated program finds matching entries, it notifies both of a match.
“Then from there on, we leave it up to (them),” said Ed Baker, one of the site’s creators. “The next step would be for someone to make a phone call.”
The co-founders said the site prevents an unwanted match by requiring both sides to enter the name of the other.
“One person can’t think the other person is creepy if they put (the other person’s) name in,” Baker said.
The four sophomores came up with the idea for DateSite over dinner last November and used their combined knowledge to create the site. Baker said each of the four friends was needed to make the site a success.
“We’re not all computer majors or anything,” Baker said.
The site was initially limited to the Boston area while the quartet worked out initial bugs in the program, but it has now expanded to a national market.
“We’re not sure how many of our users are taking it seriously,” said co-founder Jake Fleming, “But people are saying, ‘Wow, that’s new and different.'”
Fleming and Baker said they are excited by the response the site has created, netting 4,000 users in just three weeks.
“There are people getting annoyed with their roommates who are getting more (messages) than they are,” Fleming said.
The site also includes a directory of date ideas for those in the Boston area, a feature that will soon be expanded to cities across the United States, Baker said.
Additionally, Dr. Love — the site’s resident love expert — dispenses romance advice for those who need it.
Shuler said he likes the idea of DateSite.
“If it had been around, I would have used it,” Shuler said, referring to beginning stages of his relationship with Bowsher.
DateSite can be accessed at www.datesite.com.