Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Hot or Not?

Jim Young and James Hong's Web Site, Hot or Not.com is a local Internet success story

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Jim Young and James Hong, millionaire winners on the Internet from Taiwan.

PHOTO COURTESY OF EIGHT DAYS

On a scale of one to 10, Jim Young (楊鑫) is a seven. At least that's what thousands of people who have seen his photo at Hot or Not.com have judged him to be. It's not the best of scores, but Young has only himself to blame -- he made the site.

Young and his longtime friend and fellow Taiwanese, James Hong, were sitting around one evening in the fall of 2000 when Young confided that a girl they'd both recently met was, in his opinion, a perfect 10. It's a conversation that is a pastime for college students everywhere. But Young and Hong, who were both studying computer science at San Francisco's Berkeley University, decided they could maybe profit from the pastime.

Within a few days, Young had built a simple Web site where people could post their pictures and let others rate how hot they are. They mailed the site to their friends and, presto, one of the most visited sites on the Internet was born.

"We launched at about 2 o'clock," Hong said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. "By the end of that day I think we had about 30,000 people come to the site."

In the years since, that number has grown exponentially and caught the attention of media outlets from The New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, who called them some of the "100 most creative people in entertainment."

There have been over 12.3 million photos posted to the site. "We have around 5 million accounts," Hong says, "but people can post more than one photo of themselves." Those 12 million photos have been looked at over 8 billion times, if the counters are to be believed. It seems feasible given just how addictive the site can be.

It works like this: When you log onto http://www.hotornot.com, you're met with an anonymous face under a simple banner that asks "Hot or Not?" Beneath it is a strip numbered one to 10. Choose a number and the page quickly refreshes to give you that person' s average score and how many votes they've received. You can choose to view a certain sex and age range, or pass judgment on all-comers.

You're also told the last time they checked their score, making the whole experience somehow less anonymous. It's one thing to chuckle at the woman with the wart, it's something else to see that she checked her rating just 56 seconds ago. "It's a beauty mark," your conscience hisses at you. "You should have given her a six."

And, of course, you can put your own photo on the site. It doesn't cost anything -- except maybe your self-esteem -- and there just might be someone who thinks you're a perfect 10, warts and all.

If you want to meet them, though, it'll cost you. And this is where Hong and Young have hit it big.

While they're not saying how much they've earned since launching Hot or Not.com, Young and Hong admit it's made them wealthy. "We have tens of thousands of members," Young said. "We charge US$6 per month, so, you can do the math."

They're not the only ones to profit from Hot or Not's dating feature. Visitors can choose to meet someone they fancy and, if that person wants to meet you, a double match is made. In the site's own words, "Jack clicks `Yes' to Jill. Jill Clicks `Yes' to Jack and a double match is made. Jack writes Jill knowing they both said `Yes.'"

How often does it happen? At the time of writing, 25,185 double matches were made in the last 12 hours. That figure is constantly updated and rarely small.

This story has been viewed 5039 times.

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