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Daily Northwestern

Posted by Peter on November 17, 2007

Alums hope to see online sparks fly with Facebook application (Nov 16, 2007)

Internet connections could lead to real-life couples

Sam Kirkland

Online dating is about to get easier, more practical and more realistic, thanks to two NU alums.

This week, Adam Sachs, Communication ’05 and Dan Osit, Communication’04, launched Sparkker, an application on the popular social networking Web site Facebook.

The application allows users to form groups with their friends, plan events with other groups and ultimately interact with potential dating partners in real-world settings.

“In a lofty sense, our goal is to change the way people date and meet new people online,” Sachs said.

Sachs described Sparkker – the name refers to the spark created when two people meet – as “a hybrid between social networking and online dating.”

Once Facebook users add the application to their profiles, they can create groups for their friends to join or join other existing groups. Group leaders, called “ambassadors,” set the group’s location, sexual orientation and description. They also specify what qualities group members are looking for in other people.

From there, ambassadors search for other area groups and plan real-life events and meet-ups.

The idea, Sachs said, is to do what other online dating sites such as Match.com and eHarmony.com do not: simulate the group setting where people really meet one another.

“Sparkker is about getting out and getting into the real world,” Sachs said. “It is very location-based.”

A launch party will take place in New York in the next few weeks, and Sachs and Osit said they hope to one day hold bimonthly mixers in locations around the world, including Chicago.

The idea for the application came from what the developers were experiencing after moving to New York following graduation, Sachs said.

The friends – who met during Fall Quarter of Sachs’s freshman year – found themselves socializing with the same people week after week and never meeting anyone new.

Sparkker’s location on Facebook essentially means free advertising to millions of users, Sachs said.

“We want to start as a Facebook application because it’s an easy and quick way to reach 50 million people instantly,” Osit said.

Osit said Sparkker could one day expand into a Web site of its own, but for now it’s relying on word of mouth to spread interest.

“Facebook in general is very viral,” Sachs said. “You tell somebody and they tell somebody. Information travels very quickly.”

Because Sachs and Osit have little experience in designing and maintaining Web content, they brought Peter Kamali, a co-founder of Meetup.com, on board as Sparkker’s chief technical officer.

“Through a friend of a friend, we had him as an adviser,” Sachs said. “He kind of fell in love with our idea.”

Sparkker is different from typical online dating Web sites because most of the interaction will take place away from the computer screen, Sachs said.

“We want to emphasize people meeting in real life,” he said.

But some NU students said they are wary of online dating in any form.

Communication sophomore Eric Choi said he used Facebook to meet eventual friends before coming to NU based on their listed interests, but he wasn’t a fan of the recent flood of applications on the Web site.

“There’s a lot of random stuff,” Choi said. “I really don’t bother with them because they’re pointless. (Sparkker) would be useful for a particular demographic, but not for me.”

Kristen Sun said she has never entered the online dating scene but said that might change if Sparkker is successful.

“It sounds interesting,” the SESP freshman said. “I might try it out.”

Reach Sam Kirkland at samkirkland@u.northwestern.edu.

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