Online, a Niche for All
Online dating sites such as Match.com and eHarmony draw millions with a promise of replacing chance meetings on the office elevator with a targeted computer search for a soul mate. Now there's Prescription4Love.com, a dating Web site "for people with special conditions."
Launched in 2006, Prescription4Love was created by Ricky Durham in memory of his brother, James Keith Durham, who died in 2004 after a 15-year battle with Crohn's disease.
"He couldn't meet people," remembers Durham. "He had a colostomy bag, so he didn't feel comfortable meeting people." Things might have been different, Durham believes, if his brother had been able to find somebody who shared -- and understood -- his illness. The Web site allows users to do just that by searching according to different conditions, such as AIDS, infertility and obesity.
Durham is tapping into a strong market. One in 10 American adults who use the Internet -- or some 16 million people -- are what the Pew Internet and American Life Project calls "online daters," most of whom believe they have a better chance of finding the perfect match online because they can search such a large pool of potential mates.
The number of niche dating sites is increasing, too, including the established JDate, an "online destination for Jewish men and women to find friends, dates, and even soul mates, all within the faith," and the recent Sweet On Geeks, "a dating space where gray matters."
Durham says his site has about 1,000 members so far and that the number of hits is increasing steadily. "STDs get a lot of hits," he says. "So do cancer and diabetes." And he's noticed that some people are signing up with more than one condition: "Cancer and deafness -- I wasn't counting on that."
The site is free for now, but Durham plans to charge a small membership fee and says he will donate a percentage of any profit to a charity for each condition.
Last month, Durham responded to users' requests to add more conditions to the database. They include epilepsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and lupus.
-- Frances Stead Sellers