The driving force behind midsummerseve.com, Daniel Smith's online dating service, was not the desire to find a partner but personal challenge. "I discovered there weren't any decent UK dating sites at the time, so I thought, right, here's my chance," Smith explains.
The aptly named site - Midsummer's Eve is traditionally the day on which young women discover who their future husbands will be - allows punters to get to know people anonymously by posting their personal details and the type of person they would like to meet and exchange messages with. "But," says Smith, "it is not e-mail, which helps reassure people they won't get harassing messages in their inbox."
Smith's challenge was to develop the software for the site from end to end, which turned out to be a major programming and database project lasting six months. Although he worked single-handedly in the development stage, he now has the help of a couple of volunteers to ensure that "nobody is getting up to anything too naughty".
The site was launched in August 1999. It uses a Windows NT server running Microsoft IIS4 and runs a Microsoft SQL Server 7 database. The data is passed using Visual Basic-scripted Active Server Pages created using Microsoft Frontpage 98 for page layouts and Microsoft Visual Interdev for the scripting. Smith is tight-lipped on security issues, but says he is doing as much as he can to keep data on the site protected.
Smith's hard work and determination has paid off. The site has 16,000 registered users, receives about 3,500 visitors a day and serves nearly a million pages every month. Income is generated by members paying a fee to be featured on the home page and through advertising and affiliations. "I wouldn't say it earns a fortune, but hopefully we're more Yahoo than Boo," says Smith.
Pecuniary interest aside, Smith cites the best moment of working on the site as being the recent first few marriages, and the engagements, the movings-in and the first baby. The worst moment came over Christmas when the site became "flaky" under the strain. Smith had to take the site offline for a week and do a major rewrite. He says next time he will have scalability built-in from the start to cope with demand.
For Smith, the dating game has been a success. He is currently developing dating sites for a number of UK companies and is working on other interactive Web site projects.