There is a larger problem with this idea, in that it is another example of neo-classical economics at work: if there isn't scarcity, create it. It leads to stupid IP laws and other forms of artificial restriction which are highly profitable for politically connected gatekeepers, but bad for everyone else.
If one is going to use restriction here, then it needs to cut both ways, because not only are contacts, but refusals, cost free. This leads to a spam cycle: the chance of getting a reply is low, particularly for men, and that means they send out large numbers of queries. Which, in turn, swamps women, especially desirable seeming partners. Who then reject more, leading more men to spam. People are reduced to the lowest level of interactions.
Better is to create a system which generates actual meetings, because, and this should be no surprise, people are more attractive in person. Internet dating is victim to the "S" curve of adoption. When there were few people on the internet dating scene, and more particularly few attractive people in comparison to the pool, it took few queries and worthwhile offers were few. It worked very well for a small number of people. But once the pool was filled, particularly by men looking for second, third and so on relationships, life changed. It is hard to sort the dross, profiles don't work well, and queries have such a low chance. Chat rooms became clogged, and it is the chat rooms that people used effectively, because real time winnows out not serious people quickly.
So back to the query aspect. The system should be that people get a limited number of mails out, but also a limited number of rejections. Once they have not responded to a certain number of queries, their profile disappears until they send out a certain number of queries. That is, people can no longer hang back and wait for offers, but must make offers themselves.
This falls into a class of economic markets where there is asymmetrical cost of negotiation: it takes one party a great deal more energy to make an offer than the other party to reject one, hence the waiting party has no incentive not to wait, and wait, and wait. Offering parties have no ability to gauge who is serious, that is looking for an offer now, and who is merely fishing. The same applies to employment, which is why I was thinking about the class of problem, and discussing it over the summer - candidates for employment have basically three categories of job offers, those where there is a real need that must be filled quickly, terrible jobs that churn and burn through people, and those that they have virtually no chance of getting. While it is fairly easy to filter the bad job out, and take one only if it is clearly necessary, the other two are much harder to sift out.
But the differences in chances of being hired are vast. For the real need, there is essentially a 2 week to 1 month window. This means that there are few candidates, and one must be selected unless all are unfit. For the second, the employer is basically looking for the person who is the perfect fit who just got laid off in the middle of an ugly divorce and needs to be at work now and so willing to work at a 30% discount. The discount number is one I calculated based on some proprietary data I had available at that time. Roughly, the fisher is trying to get that much off the going rate for the skills set.
For the job seeker, there is actually a heuristic: the longer the list of desired skills, the worse the chances. If job sites wanted to reduce the amount of fishing and increase the chances of people being hired – which they don't by they way – then they would place a low cap on the desired skill list, because long skill lists indicate an employer who can afford to be picky, read slow, and is looking to knock down the salary from the market rate for not having obscure skills, or very particular domain knowledge. All of which can be acquired quickly.
For the dating site, the basic problem is that the interests of the dating site, and the people on it, are 100% in opposition to each other. Daters want to find dates, dating sites want people to not find dates. This is a death spiral: the most desirable people for a dating site are cheaters – particularly men – because they stay on, they are more attractive than they should be – and picky women who are looking to boost their egos by rejecting men. For the same reason, they are more attractive than they should be, and are on more. They need just enough matches so that desperate people will join, but matches disappear.
Is there a solution for this? The physical world places an offer cost: a store, clothing and the time to get ready for a date, physically flying in a candidate or flying out an interviewer. The network world can impose a cost to, but of a different kind.
Sure, and if I start a company, it will be based on the algorythm that solves this version of the asymmetrical offer problem, and the mismatched incentives between markets which want to be clogged with failure, and the members, who want success. BTW, this applies to political activism. Activists are generally failures, because there is a huge incentive to be a failure. The activist proposition is to build up a network of people who are highly motivated by your cause, and give you money. This is a huge wall to climb. Once in place, it is easy to maintain. Hence failure is better, because a perpetual, unsolvable problem becomes legacy activism. Activists deserve being picked on, because the entrepreneurial model of activism has not served the people they get money from well, but it is far from an isolated case.
Asymmetrical offering and failure incentives are two large structural problems that come from the low cost of internetworking, and lead to network and market failure. In another age, we would have used government, but that isn't really possible now, because government right now is loaded with people trying to generate barriers to entry for the profit of constituencies, who are, in turn, part of failure incentivized markets. That is, they have a high incentive to come up with a solution that benefits them short term, and then collapses, so that they have no competitors coming after them. Consider the implications of the Buffet rule: it is in effect a barrier to people getting rich, which benefits the people who made their money during the "Great Tax Depression."
And so on. So executive summary: one of the problems of a cheap communication high barrier to network world is that it creates incentives to two kinds of strategy which are market failure producing. One is the fake offer, which leads to the spam cycle, the other is the failure incentivized actor. There is a solution, it is simple, elegant, and will be opposed by generation Fail to the bitter end. Their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred celebrity depend on it. update: seems like this is being realized.