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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (CAP) - Internet search giant Google announced today that it is expanding into yet another red-hot electronic arena: online dating. The company's Google Dates will begin beta-tests in select markets as early as next week, with a planned full-rollout to take place in the next few months.
"With millions of desperately lonely people using Google at any given moment, we feel the environment is right to play matchmaker to people of like interests," said Google spokesman Aaron Zamost. "At Google Dates, our motto will be, Search for something special, and someone special may find you."
Google is hoping that its simplified approach to online dating will be one of its strongest features. Unlike traditional services like Match.com, people who sign up for Google Dates don't need to input a lengthy profile before getting hooked-up. Users select a username, their region, gender and gender preference, and operating system. They can then upload a picture of themselves (optional). At this point, they are set to begin dating.
"Google Dates works totally on a search-matching model," said CAP News relationships expert Dr. Sandra Goodlei. "You search for something, and amongst the Websites returned is a listing of those individuals who are searching for or have recently searched for the exact same thing. It's then up to you whether you want to send a message to one of them and begin a dialog."
While Google Dates' deployment so far has been limited to a very narrow three-month test in several southern California communities last summer, it already has a number of successful match-ups under its belt. One such success story is Brad and Maggie Hinkerton.
"I was doing research on my family, the Hinkertons, and Maggie was doing the same thing at the same time," Brad said. "We started exchanging e-mails and discovered that we were long-lost first cousins. That shared bond turned to love, then marriage. Maggie didn't even have to change her name."
"Wanna see our three-eyed baby?" Maggie asked.
Critics warn that Google could be opening the doors to a whole new generation of online swindlers who would prey on the lonely and real-life undateable. At the very least, they warn, Google may be taking something complex like physical attraction and boiling it down into a single sliver of shared interest that will result in few lasting relationships.
"It is kind of like shallowly hanging out in an ice cream parlor and choosing someone based on what flavor they pick out," said Dr. Goodlei. "Hey, pistachio - rim me!"