A WEBSITE DESIGNED to accommodate people who want to cheat on their partners has grown by about 170 per cent in the past year in Ireland.
AshleyMadison.com allows “attached people” to flirt with other married men and women through its online chat and messaging systems. It also gives out tips for couples who want to meet up in the real world.
The website arrived in Ireland in 2009 but has taken off in the past year because of the official UK launch.
As of this weekend 41, 341 people had signed up to the service (minus one for this reporter who had a look in the name of research). Of those members, about 33 per cent are female.
The site prides itself on its discretion. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, its founder and CEO Noel Biderman said that the focus of the website is not to encourage infidelity but to help people limit the collateral damage that can happen after having an affair.
“There is no way anyone in a happy relationship will have an affair no matter how many websites exist,” he said.
“The presence of our website is not the cause of the affair. Long before we launched there was infidelity and long after I’m gone, people will cheat,” added Biderman.
Speaking from his Canadian offices, the CEO said he dreamt up the idea as a marketer and an entrepreneur – not as a married man (although he does confirm that he is a happily married father of two).
As a businessman, I recognised that there was already a rampant market for this type of site so that married men and women could remove themselves from typical dating sites where they were preying on single people.”
Making a case for AshleyMadison.com’s services, Biderman tells me that affairs often are doubly-destructive, particularly if they happen in the workplace or with somebody close to the couple.
“There may be a moment in someone’s life when they believe that the best thing for them to do is meet someone new. For those people, they should not use a singles’ site as there is more of a chance of getting caught,” he reasons.
However, he does concede that the existence of the website and its popularity – it now does business in 17 countries, through seven different languages and has over 12 million members – says a lot about “how humans are as a species”.
Saying one thing, doing another?
The company’s most recent advertisement caused controversy in the United States as it featured a slim woman and a plus-size model with a tag line, “We call it as we see it. Life is Short. Have an Affair.”
However, the site claims it does not encourage married people to “stray”.
“In fact, if you are having difficulty with your relationship, you should seek counselling,” it says.
…[After counselling] if you still feel that you will seek a person other than your partner to fill your unmet needs, then we truly believe that our service is the best place to start.”
It also says that it does not make it easier for people to cheat on their partners, stating that blaming its service for affairs is the same as pointing the finger at glassware for the existence of alcoholism.
The site does not discriminate against single people either. According to the company’s FAQ section, there are “many single people on Ashley Madison that wish to meet attached people for various reasons” – but they are warned that they may have to “work a little harder” to meet someone.
Winky messages, private chats
In Ireland, the majority of members are located in Dublin (the website locates you by your IP address and nobody outside of Ireland is able to log on or even browse around).
However, there are members in each of the 26 counties. In Kerry, there are 3,692 members, while some 2,559 people have signed up in Donegal.
After Dublin’s 27,893-strong membership, Cork is the next highest with 4,127. About 1,985 of Ireland’s “attached but seeking” live in Galway.
Signing up is free but credits have to be bought in order to get in contact with a potential suitor. Once you have stocked up, you can send winky-face messages, private mails and upgrade your profile.
Although more than 40,000 people seem to have embraced the site in Ireland, it may be some time before we see any real advertising or marketing ploys being used here.
Biderman said that management had explored its options but ran into problems with some publications and broadcasters. However, if the timing is right, he said that a campaign will be started here.
So, these are the types of ads that will be gracing the back pages of your newspapers soon:
Image from @HeIsJordanWare on Twitpic.