Hot or Not

Hot or not composite

Hot or Not was a rating site that allowed users to rate the attractiveness of photos submitted voluntarily by others. The site offers a matchmaking engine called ‘Meet Me’ and an extended profile feature called ‘Hotlists.’ It is owned by Badoo Trading Limited (a dating-focused social discovery website, founded in 2006 by Russian entrepreneur Andrey Andreev), and was previously owned by Avid Life Media (who owns a dating web site named ‘Ashley Madison’ that is geared toward married individuals looking for an additional relationship).

‘Hot or Not’ was a significant influence on the people who went on to create the social media sites Facebook and YouTube. The site was founded in 2000 by James Hong and Jim Young, two friends and Silicon Valley-based engineers. Both graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in electrical engineering, with Young pursuing a Ph.D at the time.

The site was a technical solution to a disagreement they made one day over a passing woman’s attractiveness. The site was originally called ‘Am I Hot or Not.’ Within a week of launching, it had reached almost two million page views per day. Within a few months, the site was immediately behind CNET on NetNielsen Rating’s Top 25 advertising domains. To keep up with rising costs Hong and Young added a matchmaking component to their website called ‘Meet Me at Hot or Not,’ i.e. a system of range voting. The matchmaking service has been especially successful and the site continues to generate most of its revenue through subscriptions. In ‘Time’ magazine in 2006, the founders of YouTube stated that they originally set out to make a version of ‘Hot or Not’ with Video before developing their more inclusive site. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook similarly got his start by creating a ‘Hot or Not’ type site called ‘FaceMash,’ where he posted photos from Harvard’s Facebook for the university’s community to rate.

‘Hot or Not’ was sold for a rumored $20 million in 2008 to Avid Life Media, owners of ‘Ashley Madison.’ Annual revenue was estimated at $5 million, with net profits of $2 million. They initially started off $60,000 in debt due to tuition fees James paid for his MBA. In 2008, ‘Hot or Not’ launched ‘Hot or Not Gossip’ and a celebrity rate box (a ‘hot meter’) – a sub division to expand their market which is run by former radio DJ, turned celebrity blogger, Zack Taylor. In 2012, ‘Hot or Not, was taken-over by Badoo. The new service is a replica of the default Badoo service with ‘Hot or Not’-branding.

Hot or Not was preceded by the rating sites ‘RateMyFace,’ which was launched a year earlier in the summer of 1999, and ‘,’ which was launched in 2000 by MIT freshman Daniel Roy. Despite the head starts of its predecessors, ‘Hot or Not’ quickly became the most popular. Trademark threats from ‘’ eventually forced ‘’ to change its name to ‘’ in 2001 and buy ‘’ in 2004. Since’s launch, the concept has spawned many imitators. The concept always remained the same, but the subject matter varied greatly. The concept has also been integrated with a wide variety of dating and matchmaking systems. In 2007, ‘’ launched and deleted anyone with a rating below 7 after a voting audit or the first 50 votes (whichever is first).

Variations on the ‘Hot or Not’ concept include voting via a Condorcet method where a candidate is compared with other candidates in a series of pairwise comparisons in order to gauge their popularity. ‘’ uses a 4 way comparison of candidates to gauge their popularity and show a ‘type’ match for candidates who most closely match the average preferences shown by the user making the choices. A website based on the opposite idea of the ‘Hot or Not’ concept was introduced in the spring of 2011, with the creation of ‘’ a site where voting was not based on attractiveness but on creepiness.

In 1883, Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, devised a technique called composite photography. He believed it could be used to identify ‘types’ by appearance, which he hoped would aid medical diagnosis, and even criminology through the identification of typical criminal faces. In short, he wondered if certain groups of people had certain facial characteristics. To find this answer, he created photographic composite images of the faces of vegetarians and criminals to see if there was a typical facial appearance for each. Galton overlaid multiple images of faces onto a single photographic plate so that each individual face contributed roughly equally to a final composite face. While the resultant ‘averaged’ faces did little to allow the a priori identification of either criminals or vegetarians, Galton observed that the composite image was more attractive than the component faces. Similar observations were made in 1886 by Stoddard, who created composite faces of members of the National Academy of Sciences and graduating seniors of Smith College. This phenomenon is now known as’ averageness-effect,’ that is the highly physically attractive tend to be indicative of the average traits of the population.

In 2005, as an example of using image morphing methods to study the effects of averageness, imaging researcher Pierre Tourigny created a composite of about 30 faces to find out the current standard of good looks on the Internet. On the ‘Hot or Not’ web site, people rate others’ attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. An average score based on hundreds or even thousands of individual ratings takes only a few days to emerge. To make this hot or not palette of morphed images, photos from the site were sorted by rank and used SquirlzMorph (freeware image morpher) to create multi-morph composites from them. Unlike projects like ‘Face of Tomorrow’ where the subjects are posed for the purpose, the portraits are blurry because the source images are low resolution with differences in posture, hair styles, glasses, etc., so that here images could use only 36 control points for the morphs. A similar study was done with Miss Universe contestants to study averagenessm as well as one for age, to study youthfulness (neoteny).

A 2006 ‘hot or not’ style study, involving 264 women and 18 men, at the Washington University School of Medicine, as published online in the journal ‘Brain Research,’ indicates that a person’s brain determines whether an image is erotic long before the viewer is even aware they are seeing the picture. Moreover, according to these researchers, one of the basic functions of the brain is to classify images into a hot or not type categorization. The study’s researchers also discovered that sexy shots induce a uniquely powerful reaction in the brain, equal in effect for both men and women, and that erotic images produced a strong reaction in the hypothalamus.


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