June 17, 2014 -- It’s back! HOTorNOT, the famous (and slightly infamous) website that earlier this millennium gave guys and gals the titillation of rating one another’s hotness, is set to announce on June 17 the release of a new app designed to attract “the world’s hottest people," in the words of its new owner.
That owner is Andrey Andreev, who sat down with ABC News to demonstrate how the new site differs from, and improves upon, the old.
The Russian-born Andreev, still boyish at 40 and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Alfalfa of “Our Gang," describes himself as a serial entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Badoo, a billion-dollar social networking site in Europe whose 200 million users live mostly in Spain, Italy, France and Latin America. None of them, he said, hail from the U.S.
Andreev said he pounced on HOTorNOT immediately in 2012, once he saw that the then-struggling site was for sale. Ten years ago, it was HOTorNOT’s original success that first inspired him to get into social media. Now he views the “iconic” brand as his ticket into the U.S. market. “So tasty. ... Red meat!” he said of the U.S. market.
He declined to say how much he paid for the site, which, after being launched in 2000 by two University of California, Berkeley electrical engineers -- James Hong and Jim Young -- later passed through a succession of owners, and went into decline.
“The original HOTorNOT had 10 buttons,” Andreev explained, referring to the version that ran on desktops. The buttons allowed the user to assign someone a hotness at rating of between 1 to 10. The new app will simplify things for a mobile device’s smaller screen: the user simply rates someone as hot or not. If 65 people out of 100 think someone is hot, that person is assigned a hotness rating of 6.5. “It’s simple math,” Andreev said.
But though the rating process has been streamlined, the new app offers features and nuances never dreamed of on the original. The new HOTorNOT is still fundamentally a rating system, which Andreev calls “food for the ego, for girls especially.” But the new app offers rating and dating combined. “If you rate her hot, and she rates you hot, you will be put together,” he said.
Users will be able to “chat, communicate, mingle and play,” and share friends, all in one space.
The new app will permit various kinds of Hot Lists. For example, by referencing users’ Facebook information, the app could, say, survey the universe of people working for a particular investment bank and tell you in a snap who’s the hottest investment banker at its Manhattan headquarters. Using a geo-locator, it could tell you what woman (or man) attending the World Cup is the hottest soccer fan present.
Asked how the site will make money, Andreev demurred. “This is my toy,” he told ABC News. Growth is his priority for now, not monetization, he said, noting that later, when the reborn site has “tens of millions” of users, that will be the time to monetize.
If Badoo offers and hints, future profits might come by offering users, in exchange for a small fee, a chance to promote themselves: pay $1, say, and your picture appears along with those of other fee-payers at the top of the page. You’re not hotter. But you’re more prominent.
Of the satisfactions he has had so far from ownership of HOTorNOT, Andreev said that among the greatest was getting a personal, congratulatory phone call from James Hong, right after Andreev’s purchase of the site had been announced. “It was a two-hour conversation,” Andreev said. “James said he believed the site was now in the right hands. He shared with me all his ideas.”
Hong, who, since selling HOTorNOT in 2008, has maintained no relationship with the company, recalled the conversation a little differently.
“These facts I can confirm,” he told ABC News: “I did contact Andrey after he bought it, to congratulate him.” And yes, the they talked for about two hours. But no, he said, “I did not 'give him all my ideas.'”