The eCRUSH network comprises three major sites: eCRUSH.com, eSPINtheBottle.com and HighSchoolStyleBoard.com. The network was acquired by Hearst Media on December 31, 2006 . The original eCRUSH site was launched on Valentine's Day, 1999 in Chicago by Clark Benson and Karen DeMars Pillsbury. It pre-dates the social networking phenomena of Friendster.com, MySpace.com and Facebook.com .
According to Nielsen//NetRatings, the eCRUSH network is the 10th largest dating site in the US, both hitwise and by member logins.
eSPINtheBottle (eSPIN) is a spin the bottle-like social networking service backed by a matchmaking engine. Users "spin the bottle" to find other users (although they can also search); the site also has quizzes. Registration is free, however, one must pay a monthly fee or unlock various tools via sponsers to do key processes like chatting or sending messages.
The New York Times cites that eSPIN has registered more than 3.8 million users as of January 2007 . ComScore Media Metrix has measured their monthly unique visitors at 717,000 and montly pageviews at 67MM (October 2006).
eSPINtheBottle prohibits minors from contacting adults and vice versa, and screening user-submitted content before it can go live. Additionally, minors are prohibited from publicly posting contact information like email addresses and screen names.
eCRUSH.com is a teen-oriented anonymous matching site designed to obviate fears of unrequited love . A user creates a list of people he or she is interested in, and has the option of sending anonymous emails to those individuals indicating that an unidentified person has a crush on them. The recipient can then logon to the site and create a list of people they are interested in. If the two people select each other, then the system notifies them of the match. This system is a type of viral marketing in which awareness of the site spreads among friends and acquaintances similarly to a virus as they list each other as crushes and send emails. Over 1,000,000 people have matched on eCRUSH.
High School Style Board is a photo-rating site. Instead of just trying to be "hot," users can post photos in categories like "Best Hair" and "Preppiest." Other features: multiple votes on each page and an extensive "Top 500" list in each category.
In accordance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, eCRUSH shut down the existing accounts of children who identified themselves as being under thirteen. According to a Red Herring article, "ECrush.com is seizing an elusive but highly desirable audience of young, mostly female viewers, ranging in age from 13 to 23." According to that article, the service has seen its biggest growth at high schools and colleges.
The company's emails promise, "At eCRUSH, we know how important your love life is to you, and we would never take advantage of your emotions just to spam your crush." However, an April 22, 1999 article in Ohio University's The Post argued, "It is rare to be matched up with your one and only by trickery or bizarre circumstance. When eCRUSH's initial e-mail is sent, the recipient might discard it like a chain letter or an invitation to a porn site.
The "Someone has an eCRUSH on you" emails do not list the name of anyone the friend knows; therefore, a recipient unfamiliar with eCRUSH could very well interpret them as spam. Moreover, as with many commercial emails, eCRUSH's messages contain images that, for privacy reasons, would be peremptorily blocked by most modern email clients – another red flag suggesting spam to many users. Lastly, the email subject lines – e.g., "Someone you know likes you!" – resemble those employed in mass mailings from other dating sites.