The Joke's on Google

Showing that even a successful company can still have a sense of humor, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) launched a fake online dating site in the spirit of April Fool's Day. The elaborate Google Romance prank pokes fun at Google's contextual-marketing stronghold and the "I'm Feeling Lucky" option on its flagship search engine.

If an online dating service as an April Fool's Day prank sounds familiar, it should. We launched the similar Love.Fool.com four years and five April Fool's Day jokes ago. Should we be offended that the $110 billion Google is mirroring our Foolish ways? Are you kidding? That's flattery, folks.

Then again, I'll go out on a limb and predict that as funny as Google Romance may be, in three years or less we'll be talking about Google Romance as the real deal.

Hear me out. Google's weekend joke was so effective because many of its search-engine rivals are already major players in online dating. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) has Yahoo! Personals, and Ask.com parent IAC/InterActiveCorp (Nasdaq: IACI  ) also owns Match.com.

Online dating is big business. According to comScore Media Matrix, Yahoo! Personals and Match.com are the most active sites, drawing 5.3 million and 3.9 million unique monthly visitors, respectively. Because relationship-seekers are also willing to pay for online introductions, the services help diversify the revenue mix. With 99% of its revenues still coming from advertising, Google would be more stupid than Cupid to forgo a shot at a high-margin niche that would help grow its ever-expanding reach.

Even The Knot (Nasdaq: KNOT  ) -- a profitable wedding resource site that has seen its shares rise by 53% since it was recommended to Rule Breakers subscribers less than three months ago -- decided to reach out earlier into the courting cycle, acquiring online dating sites GreatBoyfriends.com and GreatGirlfriends.com.

Google Romance may be funny now, but I'll eat a chalky candy heart if Google doesn't ultimately go in this direction. Maybe it will launch its own site, without the comical User A and User B going on a "contextual" date. Maybe it will tap into its ever-growing stash of cash and acquire a company like eHarmony or True.com. Folks flock to Google in order to search for things, so why not seek out significant others?

Either way, Google and online dating can't be too far away from hooking up for real. It would be a match made in dot-com heaven.

The Knot was recommended in the February issue of theRule Breakerspremium stock research service. The average selection is up 35% since the newsletter's inception, while the S&P 500 has mustered a mere 7.5% advance in the same period.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has only been married once -- which should be enough for him. He recommendsThe Motley Fool's Guide to Couples and Cashas required relationship reading, and he does not own any of the shares mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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