How Does OkCupid's Algorithm Work? The App Makes Sure Your Matches Are Compatible

Social media is constantly changing, and that includes the dating apps we find ourselves swiping on day in and day out, like OkCupid. The site launched in 2004, when it became the first free online dating platform. Eight years later, OkCupid launched its app, and as these dating apps continue to adapt and change their algorithms, it's normal to wonder why your favorite dating apps show you some people and not others. How does OkCupid's algorithm work? Does it just know what you want? To some extent, yes, but it's not some all-knowing robot. (Though, I'm certain those exist somewhere.) OkCupid matches you with people based on the information both you and your potential matches submit on the app.

"We use many algorithms," Natalie Sawyer, the communications manager at OkCupid, tells Elite Daily. "How do we determine who to show and who not to show? The answer is that it isn't just one thing — we use a lot of different factors, from age preferences, location, etc., and combine them together to create an experience where you see people compatible with what you're looking for. We also use our questions to help elevate people that we think have a lot in common, ranging from pop culture to religion to lifestyle preferences."


But how does it really work? Well, according to a TED-Ed talk about OKCupid's algorithm by Christian Rudder, one of the company's founders, it involves some math. When you're asked a question on the app, there are three parts to your answer: your actual answer, how you would like a match to answer, and how important the answer is to you.

For example, the question may be, "How messy are you?" and your answer choices are "Very messy," "Average," or "Very organized." Let's say you choose "Very organized" — that's the first part of the question. Then, OkCupid asks you how you would like someone else to answer that question, and prompts you with the same options; that's the second part of the question. The final part of the question will ask you how important this question is to you with five options: "Irrelevant," "A little important," "Somewhat important," "Very important," and "Mandatory." Depending on how you and your possible match answer those three parts decides if you're matched with each other.

Since algorithms are measured by computers, in order to be able to compute your compatibility with someone, OkCupid assigns numerical values to the five importance levels. "Irrelevant" is worth zero points, since it doesn't matter to you; "A little important" is worth one point; "Somewhat important" is worth 10 points; "Very important" is worth 50 points; and finally, "Mandatory" is worth 250 points.


Then, the algorithm calculates how much your possible match's answers could satisfy you based on how you answered, how you wanted them to answer, and how important that specific question was to you. The next thing it calculates is how your answers satisfied your possible match based on their answers about someone they would be interested in. Both those calculations are turned into percentages, and the last thing OkCupid's algorithm calculates is the average chance you could be happy together, based on your previous percentages.

TL;DR? Basically, OkCupid's algorithm is based on a whole lot of math that calculates how much you and a possible match would hit it off based on how the two of you answer a set of questions. If you had similar responses and want the same things, OkCupid matches you with them. The rest is up to you.