Before there were hip dating sites like OkCupid, Grindr and Grouper, there was Nerve Personals, the racy dating section of the online magazine Nerve.com, which billed itself as a home for “literate smut.”
Although Nerve Personals was a hit around the turn of the century, it slowly faded into obscurity as younger, sleeker rivals arose. Nerve then teamed up with a site called FastCupid to handle the day-to-day operation of the personals. When that partnership expired this year, the company decided to throw its hat back into the ring with a revamped site and concept, called Nerve Dating, which is available to the public beginning Wednesday.
“The story of online dating has become about algorithms and not about having fun with people online,” said Sean Mills, the chief executive of Nerve. “We’re moving away from the algorithm era into the social era. This is a dating site that reflects how the Web has changed.”
To design the new site, the company looked to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Interactions are based around status updates and minireports about meals eaten, concerts watched and places visited. It’s the company’s hope that those tidbits of information will act as natural icebreakers and be comfortable for Web-savvy users already used to that format from social networking sites. “We’re giving people a reason to get to know each other rather than setting them up on an awkward blind date,” Mr. Mills said.
The service’s basic features are free — users can create profiles, skim through other profiles, answer questions, post updates and respond to messages — but if they want to contact someone they’re interested in, they’ll have to subscribe to the service for $20 a month.
Although most of the popular online dating services let people message whomever they want free, Mr. Mills said that charging a fee would help to keep creepiness to a minimum and weed out those who weren’t serious about trying to meet someone new. In addition, he said, one of the biggest frustrations for online daters is the flakiness of people on the site who don’t regularly check their messages or who fail to follow up on dates. Paid subscribers tend to do that less, he said.
“There’s a filter that happens that benefits everyone on the site,” he said. “The kinds of people contacting you will be there because they genuinely want to be there and meet new people.”
Given its site’s reputation and history, Mr. Mills thinks that Nerve, which says it attracts two million visitors each month, has a shot at becoming a major player in the world of online dating.
“It’s the digital equivalent of opening Studio 54,” he said.