Online Dating for the Morally Corrupt

In a relationship? Engaged? Married? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may think that the last thing you need in your life is a profile on an online dating site., however, begs to differ. For those whose relationship status on Facebook reads “It’s Complicated,” Ashley Madison steps up to the plate, delivering an unorthodox solution to a common problem. Offering free memberships to unfaithful spouses worldwide, the dating service promises to change your life.

How? By providing a members only social networking platform for those looking for a little action on the side. Let’s take a closer look.

Who is Ashley Madison?

So who is this Ashley Madison, and what’s her deal? Ashley Madison, in fact, is not an actual person. The online dating service for unfaithful partners was founded by Noel Biderman, who launched the site in 2001. Biderman, (ironically) a former lawyer, created his company’s name by combining two of the most popular baby names: Ashley and Madison. Taking something as innocent as baby names and using it as the basis for his disturbing business model, Biderman set sail on a mission to connect cheating spouses across the map.

“Life is short. Have an affair.”

Ashley Madison answers the needs of lonely love seekers currently involved in a relationship by providing a website that allows them to create a profile and meet a secret companion. As Biderman says, “Life is short. Have an affair.” Registration is easy, and starts with selecting your relationship status, answering whether you are “attached” ¬†or single, male or female, and seeking a man or a woman to have an affair with. Next, you’ll select a user name and password, enter a custom greeting, and set your limits: short term, long term, cyber affair, anything, or undecided.

At this point, you’ll be all set to ruin your partner’s life, destroy your family, and be forever known as a bad person. Really, though, if you feel no guilt at this point, you’re probably not even human.

Feature Heavy, Compassion Free

Where Ashley Madison falls short in compassion, they attempt to make up for with fun features. Members create a profile with basic information and pictures, and are able to send and receive mail, instant messages, and gifts such as “winks.” Of course, Ashley Madison has a paid membership option which allows users to access enhanced features. While the service is compassion free, it’s certainly not free of charge if you’d like to fully utilize it. Cheaters with money to blow are invited to pay Mr. Biderman $249 for 1,000 credits which are used to do things like exchange private phones, receive unlimited messages, and appear first in search results.

In fact, Biderman is so confident in the effectiveness of his platform, he offers Ashley Madison users an “affair guarantee.” If you’ve forked over 249 bucks for a premium membership and haven’t found someone within 3 months, you’ll be refunded the price of your membership. Good deal, right?! Unfortunately for members, there is no refund button to get their conscience back (probably because they never had one to begin with).

“Tapping” an Unsaturated Market

You may think such a service is only used by a select number of people such as Tiger Woods and Jesse James, but Ashley Madison’s user base is surprisingly large. With nearly 6 million (seriously?) members around the globe, has a ratio of seven males for every 3 females. The company, however, claims that the ratio of active members is 1 male for every 3 females.

While the site has remained under the radar for the past 9 years, has become a recent subject of controversy following the launch of an aggressive marketing campaign.

Funded by the site’s millions of members, Ashley Madison stirred up controversy in 2009 when the company attempted to buy advertising time for a commercial during Super Bowl XLIII. NBC decided to take the ethical route and ban the commercial from showing (much to the chagrin of Biderman). Later in the year, Ashley Madison would attempt to buy advertisements on streetcars in Toronto for nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Again, they were denied. In response, the commissioner for the Toronto Transit Commission stated, “When it’s a core fundamental value around cheating or lying, we’re not going to let those kinds of ads go on.”

Most recently, Biderman has attempted to make his affair platform even more popular by offering Phoenix, Arizona a 10 million dollar deal to rename Sky Harbor Airport to Ashley Madison International Airport. Despite the city’s recent financial troubles, Phoenix took the moral high road by rejecting Biderman’s offer.

When confronted with the seemingly universal distaste for his company, Biderman responded with his (obviously unbiased) opinion on the matter, “Some people say it promotes promiscuity, but if you don’t do it, you get behavior that’s way more harmful to society.” Have any statistics to back up that claim, Mr. Biderman?

Although most public companies have decided not to strike up a partnership with, the site is widely promoted through advertising campaigns on the internet. While, no doubt, Ashley Madison is behind some of these campaigns, they are also promoted by independent marketers. Ashley Madison offers anyone who makes a referral up to $200 in commission for any referral that results in a purchase. A small payout for potentially catastrophic outcomes.

Ashley Madison Cares About Your Privacy

Amidst widespread concerns about the lack of personal privacy across social networking platforms, Ashley Madison ensures that your information is only shared with fellow cheaters. Ashley Madison profiles do not show up in search engines, and have privacy controls to make sure users go uncaught. Take that Facebook!

No longer will disloyal partners be faced with the burden of hiding their every move on popular social networking sites, Ashley Madison actually cares about your privacy. Being that the site is free to sign up for, however, suspicious partners are free to search for your profile. Sure, you could choose not to upload any profile pictures or disclose any personal information, but how would you score an affair then? Furthermore, Ashley Madison provides a number of anonymous payment options to conceal your purchase on credit and debit card bills. Just don’t forget to delete your browser history!

The careless cheater, however, may run into problems when paying using an electronic funds transfer. This will result in a transaction that reads “AshlyMadsn” on your bank statement. Given the site’s recent (mostly negative) publicity, there’s a pretty good chance your spouse will catch on. Good riddance.

Crossing The Line

The flaws of popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are pointed out frequently, and while often justified, we can reasonably assume that these sites have humanity’s best interests in mind. In fact, Facebook does not even allow advertisers to make ads promoting dating sites if they are targeted towards users that have selected “In a relationship” as their relationship status.

Sites like Ashley Madison, however, are truly based on negativity. Of course affairs happen, but should they really be promoted? Ashley Madison not only provides a platform for cheaters to have an affair, they guarantee that they will find a partner to have one with.

The massive marketing campaigns launched by Ashley Madison attempt to show internet users worldwide that affairs are acceptable and encouraged. What are the social repercussions of this? If continued, will we as a society ultimately become callous to the negative consequences of having an affair? To Ashley Madison, it’s money in the bank. To most, it is morally deficient and will, without question, have a terrible impact on the lives of several innocent victims.

Ashley Madison has opened the gates for companies to start popular websites that lack true values in the name of money. If Ashley Madison succeeds in convincing internet users to deem their service acceptable, what can we expect in the years to come as web-based technology advances?

By Timothy James Duffy

Timothy James Duffy is a full-time internet marketer and online content creator by day, and a Playstation 3 addict by night. Follow him on Twitter @timothyjduffy.

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