Good Changes Coming to Plenty of Fish

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If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m a big fan of the free dating service OKCupid. Part of my trumpeting OKCupid was because I liked the features, but if I’m honest another reason I gave OKCupid a lot of free advertising is because I wasn’t a fan of the free dating site most people were using: Plenty of Fish (POF).

Why I Disliked POF

My distaste for POF is pretty easy to sum up: I felt it drove a lot of new online daters away from online dating. I felt that it gave people a bad impression of what online dating is.

Specifically, I felt that the service didn’t do anything to discourage men from bombarding women with sexual messages (or just plain rudeness). I spoke about this in some detail in my article a few years ago titled the cost of free dating services.

Basically the way I see things is there are a small percentage of men out there that drive women away from the free dating services. When they do this, the “good” men using the free dating services are frustrated as they have fewer women to contact. It’s also harder for those men to get a woman’s attention: what are the odds that your email will get noticed by a woman with 100 spam emails in her inbox? So the way I’ve seen things is that a small percentage of men are making things worse for everyone truly interested in using the free dating service.

I was personally frustrated by POF as someone who gives online dating advice because I saw this situation over and over again: I would encourage someone to try online dating. They would tell me they already did try online dating at POF. I would then ask them if they tried any other services and they would say, “No, after trying POF I could tell online dating wasn’t for me”. This drove me crazy because there were a lot of people who thought that Plenty of Fish accurately represented all that online dating had to offer (it didn’t).

Why I May Like POF More Going Forward

I was very encouraged to hear about some changes that are being made to Plenty of Fish. Below is part of the email that has been sent about the changes from the owner of the site:

In sticking with my vision that POF is all about Relationships, I’m going to make a bunch of changes to ensure it stays a relationship-focused site.

1. Any first contact between users that contains sexual references will not be sent. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will be deleted without warning. This rule has actually been in effect since last month and it’s made the site so much better.

2. You can only contact people +/- 14 years of your age. There is no reason for a 50 year old man to contact a 18 year old women. The majority of messages sent outside those age ranges are all about hookups. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will get deleted.

3. Intimate Encounters will go away in the next few months. There are 3.3 Million people who use the site every day, of those there are only 6,041 single women looking for Intimate Encounters. Of those 6,041 women, the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women. Intimate Encounters on POF can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women.

In short the vast majority of people will not be impacted. This is because the vast majority of people are not going around spamming women saying “let’s have sex tonight”. I can’t change POF alone, I need your help to get the word out there that POF is all about relationships!

I think these changes are great news and long over-due.

Will These Changes Work?

I’m very hopeful for the changes being made. A few years ago I wrote an article on how I thought free online dating service could fix things which you can see here. Basically, my ideas came down to the free service still requiring a credit card be on file and if you abused people you paid.

All things considered, I do think that the changes being implemented at POF will work better than my suggestions. After all, a free dating service that asks for a credit card doesn’t feel much like a free service. Plus, managing what is really abuse and who gets charged would have been a nightmare.

So how well will the changes to POF work? Here are my thoughts:

Sexual Emails Deleted
I’m not sure if the change is saying that the sexual email will be deleted or if the entire account will be deleted. If it’s the account, it’s going to be very effective (but I do worry about false-positives).

If it’s that sexual emails will be deleted, I think it will really come down to how well it is implemented. Although just knowing that this feature exists should drive these men to other areas of the internet (or perhaps it could drive them to actually take a valid approach to dating online and if that’s the case I recommend they read my guide!)

Age Range Limits
Of the three changes, I’m afraid this one will have the smallest impact. Actually, I think it will create a new problem: 50 year old men claiming to be 35. That might sound odd but I really do believe that there is a group of men that will convince themselves that the following is a good approach:

  1. Create a profile that lists them as 15+ years younger than they actually are.
  2. Connect with some younger women assuming those younger women will fall for them.
  3. Once the young woman is madly in love with him, he’ll reveal his true age and then they’ll meet and live happily ever after.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like that the feature is making it more difficult for a 22 year old woman to be frustrated by 50 year old men. That’s good. I just think a lot of those 50 year old men will shrug their shoulders and say, “Fine, I’ll take a new approach”. If you browse around some of the forums regarding this change, you’ll see a lot of older men feel entitled to be contacting 20-year-olds and aren’t afraid to let people know how upset this change makes them.

Removing Intimate Encounters
I think part of the problem with POF was the fact that you had a group of people using the service specifically looking for sex. The service actually catered to them in some ways. I imagine there were times where men looking for sex were frustrated by the limited options on Intimate Encounters and took that frustration out on any women they could contact. I mean, it’s pretty easy to just start firing off the emails considering they were already logged into the service.

I’m very happy to see the service move away from offering this area.

So will I become a fan of Plenty of Fish? It’s definitely a possibility. There’s always some things I dislike about each dating service, but if POF continues to make changes like this and concentrate on how to help people find great relationships, I think most of my distaste for the service will disappear.


About the Author:

Brad initially struggled with online dating but over time became quite successful using it. He met his wife using online dating and has been giving advice and helping people improve their results since 2007. He has written a Free Online Dating Guide to help others find success with online dating. You can learn more about his personal experience using online dating and running this website here.


  1. Steve  June 3, 2013

    Your article was well thought out and probably gives a good clear telling of your opinion. I happen to disagree. POF was by far not my first online dating site. However these recently announced changes have convinced me to remove my profile from their site. Personally, I believe in freedom. And I do not believe that it is proper for anyone other than myself, institutionalized laws, and any person that might be interested in me to decide whether or not our relationship is/would be just and proper. I also do not appreciate that in his description of the age rule change (and in your justification as well) it was focused on 50 year old men. Is it therefore impossible to think that it could also be applied to older women? Or would it not be enforced if a 45 year old woman was attempting to contact a 30 year old male? As long as the 2 people involved are of legal age and are competent, then there should not be a website rule against it.

    I also feel that it is improper for them to invoke these rules, but then accept advertising from websites that promote the very relationships that they are denying. I regularly saw ads stating that there were 20 somethings looking for men my age. I may not be aggressively seeking that type of relationship, but it does not mean that I am not open to it. I will not mis-inform people just to get an introduction. I have always been completely honest in my profile(s) about what I was looking for on any dating site. Perhaps too honest for some sites.

  2. Jason  July 26, 2013

    I concur with what Steve have said in terms of providing users the freedom to make their own choices instead of having such rules bestowed upon them in such a manner.

  3. Jim  December 30, 2013

    So you think that POF should prevent anyone from contacting someone 14 years younger than that? For one thing, who the hell do they think they are? And how the hell did you think that is okay? 14 years is nothing when you’re 40 or 50 or 60. And in the sample they use a talk of a 50-year-old contacting an 18-year-old. Why don’t we stayed for as it really is? What if a 50-year-old contacts a 36-year-old? Someone actually think that this is not okay? Even if so, it obviously is some crazy religious crap but where the hell did they get the right to say something so blatantly stupid? How was POF and frankly home with you if you think that is okay.

    You lost me but even agreeing to that. If you really believe that in your own more.

    • Brad  December 31, 2013

      One of the biggest problems I hear is the age requirements that women post are outright ignored, so I understand where POF is coming from. That being said, I didn’t choose the 14 year limit.

      I understand your arguments although I’m not sure what religion has to do with anything and you lost me a bit at the end. Like I said, how they arrived at 14 years, I’m not sure. It may have been better if they prevented people contacting someone 14+ years younger unless the person they wanted to contact specified interest in dating people more than 14 years older than they are in their profile. That way, if that 36-year-old wants to date a 50 year old, nothing would change.

  4. Jason  November 2, 2014

    Before the 14 year limit was implemented, users could already specify the age range of who can message them in the mail settings. And they still can. So the 14 year limit does nothing useful for the user, it only limits the choice for everyone. Which is to say that it hurts the users. But POF really isn’t about meeting users’ needs, POF is about meeting POF’s needs, that’s its corporate culture and one can see this in everything it does.

    Another example: anyone you’ve interacted with and who is online will have their username prominently displayed at the top of your inbox, so you can’t miss it. That’s bad for people who like a bit of privacy. My phone doesn’t tell all my contacts when I’m using it to contact chicks, yet that’s exactly what POF does. I suspect this is one reason why most people don’t keep the same profile for very long. Even worse is they keep showing you as online for 15 minutes or so after you log off – the reason being to give the appearance of lots of active users. POF should be POA for Plenty Of Abuse.


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