Three-minute Web dates offer chances for love 

Francesca Salcido has tried a variety of online dating sites and says she’s ended up with more awkward experiences than dates with Mr. Right.

The problem, according to the 26-year-old San Franciscan, is that a picture, a profile, and a few clever e-mails rarely say enough about the person you’re about to meet.

"I mean, is he really that funny in person?" she said. "Is he as comfortable with himself as he seems? Or as attractive as his picture?"

That’s why Salcido said she turned on her webcam and joined speeddate.com, a San Mateo-based company billing itself as the world’s first online site to offer three-minute, no-nonsense dates.

Members can meet as many as 40 people in a night using either webcams or instant messaging, according to the site’s founders, and have the option of picking those they’d like to get to know better.

"When I talk to a guy on a webcam, I can tell right away if he's funny, attractive, or if we have chemistry," Salcido said. "I can actually see the guys before meeting them, so I won’t have to go on an awkward date and end up stuck there."

Speeddate.com is a new phenomenon in the vastly popular online dating world, according to co-founders Dan Abelon and Simon Tisminezky. Launched in October, Abelon said their site has already hosted more than 1 million online dates, and that a few of them have actually led to engagements.

"A few people have written in to say they've gotten engaged," he said. "Somebody wrote in telling us that in December, just two months after we launched."

Abelon said his co-founder, Tisminezky, came up with the idea of online speed dating after trying a variety of other Internet dating sites and feeling that "it took too long to get to that point where you were actually dating someone."

Saving time was important to Salcido, a San Jose State University student with finals looming.

"The biggest selling point is that I don’t have to waste time dating guys I don't have chemistry with," she said.

Has Salcido found her Mr. Right yet? "I’ve met a couple of really nice guys, but I’ve only just started using it," she said.

maldax@examiner.com

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