At the beginning of each semester, Kai Huang '11 and Arune Gulati '11 would make a list of five girls they had crushes on. Then, at the end of the semester, they would review their progress.
"I was like 0 for 25," Huang said. "It was never good."
Then, this past summer, while hoping that a crush would chat with him in an "online Facebook death stare," Huang thought of a potential alternative to the uncertainty of modern romance.
That initial concept, grown out of "experiences of repeated failures and awkwardness," now exists in the form of Prospect and Meeting, a Web site that Huang founded, he said. Users with a Brown e-mail address can enter up to five students they are interested in. If users' crushes list them too, the matched students each receive an e-mail notifying them that they have a match — and telling them who it is.
The site launched Saturday. Already over 900 students have registered, Huang said.
"It can be hard to date people at Brown," said Gerardo Tejada '10, who was featured in the promotional poster series that Huang made for Prospect and Meeting. The site could make dating "less threatening," he said.
"The reason it works is it's this return to (the) playground innocence of just having a crush on someone," said Phil Kaye '10, another student featured in the posters. He compared Prospect and Meeting to "the giggling friend" who tells two people of their mutual crush.
A fortuitous intersection
The site's name comes from Huang's musings of two summers ago. While thinking of a failed romantic endeavor as he walked home along Prospect Street, he noticed the romantic potential of the intersection of Prospect and Meeting streets, and filed the thought away.
Last summer, when Huang brought up the idea for the site to several friends, Ben Martadarma '11 said he realized it sounded familiar. At his New York public high school, Stuyvesant, it was tradition for seniors to post "crushlists" several weeks before graduation. The lists, which were first posted on a wall in the school building, were typed up and put online for students to search for potential matches.
Martadarma, a computer science concentrator, told Huang the programming for this site would not be too hard. Gulati and another friend, Tyler Parker '11, who worked on the site's design, were also involved. Martadarma began programming over winter break.
Then, a week later, Huang called with some bad news.
Huang had found out about Good Crush, a site that worked the same way. Unfortunately for Huang, this one was already set up and had a slick interface as well as networks for many different universities.
"I cannot remember the last time I was that depressed about anything," Huang said.
Good Crush, which also allows users to list up to five crushes and has the same match-up feature, grew out of a student project that founder Josh Weinstein debuted at Princeton in 2007.
Weinstein also went to Stuyvesant High School. But while Martadarma hadn't even posted a senior crushlist, Weinstein had been heavily involved. He was the first one to post the lists online, a task that took him "three days of nonstop typing," he said.
In 2007, Weinstein brought the concept with him to Princeton. When he launched the site as a student government Valentine's Day project, over 30 percent of the student body signed up within 24 hours, he said.
Weinstein decided to expand it nationwide — he is officially launching the site with over 20 colleges for Valentine's Day. But he also included networks for schools where he is not officially launching, such as Brown. As of Monday, there were about 30 Brown users, he said.
Almost 15,000 crushes have been sent on Good Crush, according to a counter on the site.
Back on Prospect Street
Meanwhile, Huang decided to go ahead with the project, believing in the local appeal — and clever name — of Prospect and Meeting, he said.
The programming took a total of two-and-a-half weeks, Martadarma said. He then tested the site with friends to make sure it was secure. Passwords are encoded, and he is the only one with access to the lists. But he is not looking, he said.
In the past week, there have been a few bugs to work out. For example, until several days ago, users could list themselves as a crush — something that 25 students did, he said.
It seems like many students who have used it so far have listed friends to test it out, said Martadarma, who hasn't yet heard of an actual romantic match despite over 150 matches on the site. Still, he said there has been a lot of curiosity and excitement.
Others are skeptical. "It doesn't seem like it would work," said Nathaniel Jeffries '13, adding that he wouldn't want to meet someone that way.
Some students she has spoken to react negatively, saying they "don't need a dating site to get play," said Alicia Maule '11, another student featured on the site's promotional posters. "But it's fun."
There is another potential, she said. "It could be a form of sexual liberation for those who don't have the confidence or support or experience in that realm," she said.
Meet your match
On Wednesday morning, Roman Gonzalez '11 received an e-mail that he had been listed, and spent the whole day thinking about it, he said.
He said he is intrigued by the site. "It creates this kind of subtle world of mystery on campus," he said. It "awakens everybody's consciousness that there are people who like other people."
The site can also awaken tensions. Gonzalez knows two people who are dating, but who each received a notification from someone else. There was an awkward curiosity that neither felt they could pursue, he said.
Beyond notifications, there is the question of what to do when you actually receive a match.
Maule probably wouldn't e-mail her match, but would instead "extend (herself) more verbally and physically" when with them, she said.
Huang said if he were to receive a match, the interaction probably would be awkward — but "beautifully awkward."
Huang wants to expand the site, with features like a blog or the potential for two lists during the sexually charged time period known as "senior scramble." One would be the traditional list of crushes, while the other could be for just "hooking up," he said.
In the meantime, he is working hard to promote the site. One of his dreams is for every student on campus to receive at least one notification from the site, he said.
"Everyone is liked by someone," he said.