What causes Manifold Love to fail?
resolved Apr 10
The basic premise of the site is too complicated for people, who prefer to use simpler dating apps.
James pivots to something else
Everyone on earth finds love
Too few people are interested in trading on random people's matches
extreme "everything is public" approach alienates userbase
people leave the site after finding a match
It just never ends up taking off, without any particular flaw being the obvious cause
lack of moderation / lots of harassment make the platform unpleasant to be on
It is never able to get a critical mass of cis women.
Stripe threatens to stop processing payments
(threat of) legal action
Manifold as a whole shuts down without it ever having taken off
another dating app captures our target audience
It is never able to get a critical mass of active profiles.
It is never able to get a critical mass of good SREs.
It allows minors to join and gets bad PR or legal issues as a result
Messaging failure: The unique value proposition is clear, predictive market match making, however the deliverable does not appear to be clear. Manifold.love could be calibrated to deliver hook-ups or long-term relationships, not both.
Markets are not predictive due to difficulty measuring or defining outcomes, or due to low probability of outcomes
Unpopular combo of excessive transparency imposed on users / lack of transparency from staff
The administration team proves incapable of writing or enforcing rules that effectively keep members safe, and this causes some form of scandal.

Please do not submit answers that are too similar to existing answers

If Manifold.Love fails, I will resolve to the most correct answer.

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Why did this resolve?

@AndrewHebb it was overdue to resolve. Manifold has stopped development on the Love product. lots more info in the comments below.

@Joshua why is it always you taking all my mana in these DAMNABLE staff meme markets

Man who spends too much time on website understands website. More at 11.

Unfortunately the questions mixed proximate causes with more remote causes. Why did your marriage end? Because my wife left me AND because I cheated on her (hypothetical). Both are “correct” causes, neither excludes the other.

@mariopasquato Yeah, the biggest problem with this market and the reason I delayed resolution so long, is because it was poorly ran and poorly structured.

I didn't want to pick an answer that was non-predictive, or unhelpful, bc the reason for the market was to preempt concerns. I think of the answers listed, the most useful concern which was confronted/addressed was the complexity of the user experience. I still don't think it was a particularly good answer, but I don't think there was any better one.

As written, "What causes it to fail", comes down to "not the highest NPV project for Manifold to work on as a team", but that wasn't the intended right answer. I did a poor job outlining this in the description, despite some loose comments about it.

I'll take the bad reviews, that's what the system is for!

The basic premise of the site is too complicated for people, who prefer to use simpler dating apps.

IMO this is "most" accurate from this list, but not necessarily the only/main reason. The answers here were not really that good and although I feel strongest to this answer, I don't think it necessarily caused it to fail. nor did any of the other reasons listed here.

There was always a significant opportunity cost to developing Manifold Love instead of Markets, but most of the listed issues, including the complexity, could have been overcome. There were some changes towards the end which made the matching/likes system a lot simpler for lower-engagement users, but it would have always been a challenge to explain the mechanism to a total outsider, and especially difficult to recruit them as an active matchmaker.

I didn't talk to anyone on the team about this, they might disagree - but it was time to resolve this market and probably best not to spend too much time recounting it again


Yeah I think the most telling thing is that they changed to ships at the end, which I think was the right call but came too late.

What if the thing that caused Manifold Love to fail was the fact that there was a Manifold market about why (rather than whether) it would fail?

@PlasmaBallin If it didn't fail, this would have resolved N/A, but it wouldn't have helped identify potential threats by having the additional noise of people betting on an "it won't fail" option

@Gen Mr Genzy sir, we must all face our destiny

The basic premise of the site is too complicated for people, who prefer to use simpler dating apps.

Who exactly are "people"? I guess I count as "people" by not being the target audience of Manifold by any means, but I still prefer dating platforms to be as complex and featureful as possible.

My favorite dating-adjacent site has:

• Per-user:

• Profile header text

• Separate personal ad field, shown in dating-related contexts in the UI (up to 5,000 characters, easily beating Tinder's 500)

• The usual vital stat fields

• Links to accounts on other services (some horribly outdated ones, but hey, Steam and Twitter are on there)

• Interest tags (that can be searched and will show other users with the same tags)

• Image upload with multiple albums that can be liked, subscribed to, and commented on (up to 3,000 characters per comment)

• Blog posts (up to 60,000 characters) that can be liked, subscribed to, and commented on

• which can contain surveys (hi, Aella)

• and tags for categorization

• Cute virtual item gifts

• Optional ✅ checkmark if an admin validated the authenticity of a user

• Personality questions with a resulting match percentage (that they stole from old OkCupid… yes, Aella, this is by no means a novel idea that is unique to your rationalist circles)

• Guest book

• Additional pages for more text and photos

• Privacy features to hide any profile content from search engines

• Multiple hardcoded color schemes or designs (for expressing your personality)

• Markup for text formatting and image/video embedding, in almost every field

• DMs

• Chat between two people (technically redundant with DMs, but has different UX, a more immediate feel, and is ephemeral, which is why some people prefer it over DMs)

• Group chats with up to ≈100 people

• Forums on various general topics

• A news ticker about current affairs, with support for comments

• Moderated groups on certain topics, with their own forums and chatrooms

• Profile picture voting and ranking (very good for determining sexual market value)

• User search that can match every possible item you can edit in your own profile

• Full-text blog post search (a good one, not sourced out to a big search engine provider)

• A site-wide blog feed (great for discoverability)

• Swipe matching

• Lists of recommended users who are either geographically close, have recently joined, or explicitly are looking for dates with your own demographic

• A wide variety of typical casual games that can be played together, with their own ranking (poker nights, anyone?)

• A few solitaire games (🤑 user retention 🤑)

• Monetization strategy: Limited number of image uploads for basic users, premium accounts (€3/month), microtransactions for more gifts, being just one product of a 25-year-old software development SME with 30 employees

And probably a few more things that I forgot or am not even aware of. There is no single premise that pulls people onto the site, and everyone will only use a fraction of its features, but it's a different fraction for everyone. And so it gets a wide variety of people, which is exactly what you want in dating. It's also 28 years old at this point, runs on a 17-year-old tech stack, and is therefore very snappy to use on even the cheapest devices. Great small mobile app as well (the APK is 5 MB). It's wonderfully anachronistic and I love it.

I met some great women on there, and got 10 dates with 4 different women from this site so far. And that's despite it being – like Manifold – not actually that popular in the grand scheme of things. On the contrary, it sure has its haters that complain about the erratic moderation and the comparative lack of people, and the anachronistic retro internet community flavor certainly turns off the hip and young crowd. Maybe it's this crowd that actually counts as "people". Yet it still manages a small but consistent stream of new (and, from my point of view, attractive) users despite being German-only. Certainly enough to sustain the site so that it doesn't even matter that it's been "in maintenance mode" for many years.

It is never able to get a critical mass of active profiles.
bought Ṁ10 It is never able to ... YES

Doesn't the retrospective say this is the reason?

@PlasmaBallin I mean that is the what failure looks like, that's not a reason. The retrospective goes on to list many things they could have done better and would want to improve on, and those are actual "reasons" IMO. But the article lists several of them.

sold Ṁ38 It is never able to ... YES

@Joshua True, I guess it shouldn't really count as a reason


We had the advantage of a built-in community of prediction market enthusiasts, rationalists, Astral Codex Ten readers, Effective Altruists, etc. to get us started, but the network effect didn’t take off quite as hard as it needed to.

We could lean harder into the matchmaking angle. A lot of the work we did was geared towards making the platform more usable for people looking to date; “likes” and this sort of thing, but it’s possible our focus should have been on improving matchmaking tools.

Part of the difficulty here is that the Venn diagram of “people who are excited to bet on markets” and “people who are excited to matchmake”… doesn’t overlap as much as we’d want.

The other thing we could improve, with respect to matchmaking, is the ability to browse for another user. Initially, we restricted the geographic range in which you could browse matches, but our user base is small and (if you aren’t in San Francisco or NYC) scattered to the four winds. So we expanded it! But that forced matchmakers to browse sometimes hundreds of matches.

I think we could have taken better advantage of this by following up with our earliest users, many of whom didn’t revisit their profiles to answer any compatibility questions after we added the feature.

Those are all potentially reasons the app failed.

@Gen I'm afraid of what you're going to do, but we must face those fears sooner or later

SchneefackelboughtṀ1,000Answer #cbf803f4a08e YES

@Joshua "We tried, but found that this attracted 🙄 normies 🙄, so we stopped again"

Also, filling your one big promotional event with community in-jokes that are incomprehensible to the outside:

I tried to do my part by blogging about it on a German normie platform, but there's only so much I can do if this was the initial location filter:

Which communicated from the very start who (and who not) this was made for. I get it, it's the Facebook strategy, local network effects, etc., and it was changed a few weeks later. But I don't think you should then be selecting for culture fit if becoming a billion-dollar business is the goal. Especially if the concept is niche to begin with – shouldn't you be lucky to attract anyone who even just partially identifies with the concept, or wants to try out that quirky new dating strategy from across the pond?

So as far as I see it, this would only resolve NO if you try the marketing thing again (from within maintenance mode???), or if you redefine success by pointing to the 141 dates and arguing something like "look, tailor-made platforms like these are exactly what rationalist-adjacent people need to date each other in the first place, so we built it, they got their dates, ergo everything ended up working as designed, mission accomplished, and that James comment was just a joke all along".

bought Ṁ25 Answer #a7f699011e61 YES

@Gen are we still allowed to submit answers?

Oh god Genzy say no close the submissions 💀 💀

@Tumbles I also think that would be reasonable

@Joshua ok I turned off other answers bc that isn't really in the spirit of why this was made

The basic premise of the site is too complicated for people, who prefer to use simpler dating apps.

@Joshua Why bid this one up so high? I know this resolves to Genzy's opinion, not the retrospective, but I don't think the retrospective even touched on this being an issue iirc

bought Ṁ25 Answer #a7f699011e61 YES

@Tumbles I don't put much stock in the inside view of the retrospective and I think it's an obvious flaw with the premise and probably why they ditched the market aspect for ships

@Joshua As I said, I'm not betting on this anymore. But after re-reading the retrospective, it feels like the main success was to recreate the "golden era" of OKCupid for a particular niche market. And I don't see much evidence that prediction markets added significant value on top of that.

If that's the right conclusion, this is probably the best option.

Yeah imo in retrospect prediction markets were always going to be too complicated for a dating app that wanted to have mass appeal.

The site should never have launched without the simple OKC quiz and match that people already all understand. That should have been the central premise from the start, nothing more or less. Just "we made OKC again, have at it." I still think someone is going to have great success doing that eventually.

@Joshua I think it could have worked if the prediction markets were functional. If conditional markets loaned your mana back to you on unlikely outcomes or something similar they would have had more luck turning it into a value add

@Joshua it might actually be Manifold Love that manages to succeed after a hiatus tbh. imo Manifold would benefit from getting more user feedback on changes, and Manifold Love would likely benefit from more non-Manifold user input. Like I told @Gen at some stage - there were often really great comments/insights from people about what they didn't have on existing dating apps that they wished ML did. I think if the site is reawakened from a hibernation period the more relevant question than "what causes it to fail" is "what would help it succeed" but that's just my 2¢

The best part of Manifold still being small is that the line between user/target and the people who actually do (create, update, iterate, etc) the thing is so short. both sites can really benefit from this if they embrace it.

@shankypanky at the risk of representing an unpopular opinion in the middle of the night, I also think all of Manifold's business factions would benefit from having more lady energy/perspective tbh

@shankypanky That's obviously relevant for a dating site, but I'm curious, what else do you have in mind that would be improved with more lady energy?

Edit: Maybe this market is the wrong place to have that discussion though?

@TimothyJohnson5c16 I'll post a succinct reply here in the morning because I opened the topic and it's only right to be a little more clear, but then I'm glad to carry on somewhere other than this market for sure. Stay tuned I'll come back here in a few hours to try to sum up what I mean.

@TimothyJohnson5c16 okay, now that I'm back at home and in the light of day you're probably right about this not being the right forum. I don't want to be a nudnik by carrying on this train of thought and subjecting more than 100 people to it. if you're in the Discord and still/actually interested, I'd be happy to start a thread and explain my comment a bit further.

@shankypanky Thanks, yeah, I recently joined the Discord. I'm tjohnson314 there.

is the thread in a public channel? lurkers wanna lurk!

(I totally understand if it's an easier discussion to hold in private though)

@jcb haha I'll open a thread in a public channel for sure - no need to keep it private. I won't have the space for it until late afternoonish so [dramatic pause continues]

@shankypanky waiting in suspense...