Ashley Madison is now the second most popular dating site on the web. It is also second only to Facebook in how fast it adds new members. About 19 million people from all over the world have joined Ashley Madison so far, and at any given time, between three to four million are actively participating.
What makes Ashley Madison unique is that it is a dating service for married people. Its slogan is “Life is short, have an affair,”and it’s supposed to be about fun and variety, not commitment.The majority (68%) of its members are married men who are looking for sexual affairs with married women or women in committed relationships. Because both people in an Ashley Madison relationship are cheating on someone else, both have incentives to keep it secret.
Some members, however, are single people who are looking for non-committed relationships, and some are suspicious spouses who have set up profiles to check up on their partners. It costs $49 to join, and your membership fee includes “credits” that you “spend” when you initiate a contacts with another member. Many women use the website free in that they post profiles and allow men to pay to contact them. Your membership entitles you to send instant messages, photos, and gifts to others in the network, while all the time hiding what you are doing from everyone but the person you contact. You can also set up a “Private Showcase” of photos or other information about yourself, and then send members “keys” to your showcase.
You can even buy a “Ashley Madison app” that comes with your own private phone line for extra secrecy, and a panic button that can shut down your computer by remote.
Canadians Noel Biderman and Darren Morgenstern launched Ashley Madison on Valentine’s Day 2002 after their research indicated that half of married people consider having affairs. They also found that one-third of the people who use online dating services like Match.com and eHarmony.com are already married or in committed relationships. As Darren Morgenstern explained it, “Like any good marketers, we identified and defined a niche that needed a service of its own.” They named the new website after the two most popular girls’ names of 2002.
Reporters for magazines have gone “undercover” on Ashley Madison with mixed results. Lisa Taddeo, a reporter for Redbook Magazine, received 164 responses to her fake profile overnight whereas one male reporter got only one. Many of the men who answered Taddeo were straightforward about what they wanted, using names like “Lust4U” and sending her lewd pictures of themselves. They usually told her they were not dissatisfied with their marriages and wanted to stay in them. “Monogamy is Monotony,” another Ashley Madison slogan, applied to many of them.
Biderman is not apologetic about what he does. He says that the people he serves have already made the decision to cheat and he merely provides the service they need to do it privately. He believes that infidelity is a symptom, not a cause, of marital unhappiness.He thinks of what he is doing as more civilized and advanced than what goes on in certain nations where adulterers get stoned, or in earlier times when they had to wear scarlet letters.He reminds people that infidelity is not illegal and has been going on as long as people have gotten married.
“Cheating is part of human DNA,”he recently told a radio talk show host. “Sometimes affairs can even keep a marriage together.”
Biderman himself has been married for ten years, and he says he has never cheated on his own wife and has no current intention of doing so.
“Updated App Helps Cheaters,” The Huffington Post, May 10, 2013.
Gagne, Claire. “Ashley Madison Makes Cheating Pay Off,” Marketing Magazine, 9/13/2004, Vol. 109 Issue 29.
“Interview with Noel Biderman,” The Sean Hannity Radio Show, May 17, 2013.
Silverman, Justin. “The Other Side of Ashley Madison,” Redbook, Apr2011, Vol. 216 Issue 4.
Sten, Olivia. “Cheat,Pray, Love.” Flare, Aug2010, Vol. 32 Issue 8, p93-99.
Taddeo, Lisa. “I Went Undercover on America’s Cheating Website,” Redbook, March 2011, Vol. 216, Issue 3.