Feb 3, 2013 5:36am

Me and my friend have encountered a very strange, yet very annoying problem since about a week or two ago, since out of nowhere we lost the ability to IM each other on okcupid. Some more info:

  • This is only with this particular friend, both of us can still IM other people.
  • We've each other whitelisted, and as far as I know no IM filters activated (whitelist should override these anyway, not?)
  • Just to test we used an additional account, and while this didn't work initially (even after the new user waiting time), it did work after I had switched the location to the same city as my friend. Could it be that IM won't work because my friend is searching "near me", for which I don't qualify (we live in different countries)? Unfortunately this stopped working after a few days (maybe my IP told okcupid I wasn't really living near my friend?)
  • We use the Pidgin / Adium external chat client, but the same issue applies when we're only logged in from the site (could it be possible we got somehow blocked because of that?)
  • We've been chatting for months on here, none of us can remember changing anything from our side.

Thank you for your time and any suggestions how to get my friend back are welcome :)


Feb 3, 2013 7:27am

I just finished a conversation with Azonata, and the problem appears to be a bug in the programming - the other person white-listed him to get around the filters, but appears to have a distance filter that is actively filtering him from IMing the other person (the distance is over 1000 miles away) and overriding the white-list. When he changes to a city next to the other person - it works for about a day then shuts off the next day.

He sent a email about the bug to okcupid. 


Feb 3, 2013 7:33am

To add to that, my friend can however chat just fine with other people, living much further away and who are not white-listed (not by name that is, I suppose they are through the whitelisting for favourites and messages send, which are on by default).


Also my great thanks to Professor712 for his speedy and helpful feedback. If anyone can make this site a better place for all it's people like him. Keep it up!




Feb 3, 2013 11:58am


So how old are both of your accounts?

Bear in mind that if you create additional accounts, it's possible your accounts get automatically flagged in some way because technically OkCupid requires people to maintain only a single active account here. (Since it's often the hallmark of troublemakers/scammers/spammers/etc)

Do your IM settings have anything set to non-default values other than the whitelist entries?

My preferred way to guarantee the ability to IM with friends but potentially block unwanted people is to set the override that allows to IM with your favorites (profiles that you clicked the "save to favorites" button) if you have any filters set. It's the top option on the whitelist page.

Do you have each other favorited?

It would be interesting if OkCupid intentionally throttled IM's between people who live far away from each other by default, though perhaps not totally surprising given how many scammers do precisely that.




Feb 4, 2013 12:15am

Hello sfguyy, thank you for your response.

Both our accounts are several years old. Even the dummy was deactivated for several months before I brought it back alive to test this. Do you think I should deactivate it to remove the possible flag and maybe get it working? I'll do that anyway, since this might explain why the dummy stopped working after a day, so I've got no use for it anyway. Even then it's strange that it only targets this one friend though.

As far as I can see all IM settings except for the whitelist are on default, it seems to be purely related to the apparent distance filter. (Unless I'm missing something)

As far as I know the "whitelist favourites" option is on by default, it's certainly activated for me. And maybe I'm wrong, but it seems all the checkbox whitelists only determine what names go automatically in the manual name box at the bottom (since nearly all my chat/message partners and favourites where in there multiple times).

We have each other favorited.


Feb 4, 2013 3:29am

I don't think the "whitelist favorites" option is checked by default, unless they changed the defaults in the last year or 2.

Seems to be a known idiosyncracy with collecting duplicate names in the explicit whitelisted profiles box - what I noticed yesterday when I was doing cleanup on that is that it appears to add everyone you IM with into that list each time you have a successful IM session with them, and if you chat the same person 3 times, after the 3rd session you will see 3 additional entries in there for them.

If you've had both the regular and test accounts for quite a while, and based on what I'm hearing so far, I'm inclined to think that's only a low likelihood of having anything to do with this issue.

Professor712 could be right that it's a bug, the only thing that keeps me from immediately agreeing with that is that it would be an effective way to cut down on scammers to have some sort of distance filter in there. The way you describe it it sounds a little bit random, but given how a real scammer would likely try to circumvent that anti-scam measure (ie presumably by immediately changing their defined profile location), maybe it's not as random as it at first seems.



Feb 4, 2013 4:44am

It must have changed then, if you remove all IM whitelists and save the changes it instantly sets automatically whitelists favorites, anyone I messaged and A-lists back again. Which is pretty silly, since this implies that all scammers need to do is get an A-list account to get unlimited IM access to anyone (unless painstakingly blacklisting them individually overrules the whitelisting settings).

I agree that the test account doesn't seem to be related to this, but just to be sure I disabled it anyway. Do these account flags stick eternally or are they eventually cleared at some point?

A distance filter does make a whole lot of sense, but even then it would imply a bug in the whitelist system. Could it be that "moving" to another city without being there got the test account flagged? It's not impossible that they check that automatically through IP and would make a lot of sense, since even if someone is genuinely looking for let's say a place to stay abroad it's not exactly dating material for the local community. + reasoning back I don't think that account was whitelisted at the time, so maybe they noticed that I was chatting un-whitelisted with my friend while bypassing the distance filter, and that resulted in the IM function malfunctioning after a day?

Grrr so many questions, and since from what I understand there's no Okcupid support team that can really answer them I'm pretty much ready to give up. I'll have to look for alternative means to get my friend back :P


Feb 4, 2013 6:22am


if you remove all IM whitelists and save the changes it instantly sets automatically whitelists favorites, anyone I messaged and A-lists back again.


Hmm, interesting. But what do you mean "A-lists"? I have never heard or seen any evidence that A-List membership bypasses anyone's IM filters. Did you actually mean when you add someone to your "favorites list"?


Do these account flags stick eternally or are they eventually cleared at some point?


I was simply speculating, I don't have any inside info on that. At this point I doubt it is much of an issue in this case.


Could it be that "moving" to another city without being there got the test account flagged?


Historically OkCupid didn't much care if people switched their "home location" around - there are some people around here who seem to do that weekly if not more often at times.


since from what I understand there's no Okcupid support team that can really answer them I'm pretty much ready to give up.


There are people who answer support questions here but OkCupid doesn't have a large dedicated staff for that, so whether you get a response depends on the type of inquiry and quite honestly the response rate isn't very high. If you are an A-List subscriber you tend to get priority though.


I'll have to look for alternative means to get my friend back :P


I understand why people who use OkCupid may appreciate using the native IM functionality here for getting to know a brand-new person who they met here and do not yet wish to provide any more personal details to yet. But once you trust someone and have exchanged personal details like email addresses/phone numbers/etc, I don't know why anyone would want to stick with OkCupid IM for chatting over the long term, given its various idiosyncracies and limitations. Especially if you're already using multi-network IM clients like Pidgin/Adium - why not simply use one of the various other popular IM networks instead - which are natively supported with those clients anyway?




Feb 4, 2013 7:45am

If you uncheck all options in the whitelist menu, and than click "save changes", three options will check themselves on again: "Whitelist my favorites." "Whitelist anyone I’ve messaged." and "Whitelist anyone who is an A-List Member." In theory this would mean that it's impossible to ignore IM's from A-list members, since they are whitelisted by default and you can't remove this. I don't know if this actually really works like that though.

I understand that staff is expensive and especially on a free site needs to set priorities on how to spend their time. But even just an automated response after you send in a bug report might be helpful to give at least the sense that your mail actually arrived somewhere.

Pidgin/Adium does indeed support almost all major chat networks and many more through custom files made by the public. I agree whole-heartedly that Okcupid IM on default is a abomination, but with the Pidgin/Adium client it was a really useful routing for us to chat without the need to install anything (due to an employment computer) and still have the functionalities of a favorites list. The most obvious alternative for us was Skype, but this requires the official client installed, which in this case isn't possible. MSN was another option, but this will shut down in some months to be replaced with Skype... thanks Microsoft :|

It's mostly the geek in me that wants to know what caused these seemingly random changes and how it can be changed, especially if thereby it could help others deal with the same problem. I don't have high hopes for that, but computers aren't random. Something caused this :)


Feb 5, 2013 12:22am

Always a pleasure to interact with people who actively observe their surroundings and make actual rational conclusions from those observations. :-)

I'm glad you brought this up because I rarely go into IM settings these days and had no idea it was "pre-checking" those options by default. I'd agree the "whitelist all A-List users" thing is kind of obnoxious, for starters. (Actually it appears that many new users don't even have that tab at all, but it's just hidden from the UI, if they go directly to the URL they get the options to adjust. Hey, that's OkCupid for ya...)

Personally I would differ on the autoreply, I've found all too often that it's basically an excuse to ignore you. I can tell you pretty much categorically that comments here all get read, but when you've got a staff of 20 people and 18 of them are coders, more or less, doesn't leave a lot of bandwidth to give personal responses to a userbase that is up to something like 8 million now. ;-)

Next time I get a staff person's ear around here I'll bring up these IM idiosyncracies. Ping me back by email if you don't hear anything in a week or 2.


FWIW: I just tested changing the IM params on my settings page and I'm not getting this "checkboxes activate by themselves" thing when clicking save.

What browser are you using? Any possibility cookies are blocked or turned off, perhaps just for this domain or something? Any cache issues? Can you try it on a different browser/device and see if it acts the same?




Feb 7, 2013 1:12am

In today's world that sort of pleasure tends to be mutual from my side :)

I did some more testing with the IM settings tab, and I can confirm that it's non-existing for my friend, who's account is still quite a bit younger than mine. She can go to the url just fine though.

I checked the settings returning automatically on both IE and Firefox, across two computers and two different internet connections, also after I had cleared all caches, cookies and the like. I hope I get a chance to try it on the university system tomorrow, that would be fairly definitive proof to me.

I suppose it might have to do with account age, because I can remember my dummy doing it as well. Thinking about it, it might be done to compensate for the lack of IM settings tab for new users, since these three checkboxes assure pretty much that anyone ends up on the white-list on default. It's not unlikely that they use it as temporary fix to allow old users to keep their custom settings yet phase out the functionality for new ones. Why I still got both the menu AND these pre-checked boxes is a mystery to me though.

I really hope the staff can shine their light on this, because even though my specific case might not be a priority, there's a good chance it might affect others as well (most likely without even knowing it). I'll get back to you if you don't contact me first :)


Feb 7, 2013 10:03pm

FWIW, what I had been told in the past was that the IM settings (and some other things possibly, not sure I was given specifics) that are taken away for new users are not necessarily permanent - some future iteration of the site may bring them back, possibly in the same or different form.



Feb 7, 2013 11:49pm

That seems to be the most plausible idea behind it yes. Time will tell :)


Feb 15, 2013 3:58am

Okay... we made progress of some sort, even though we've no idea what changed. When my friend uses the website she can see me with IM , and send me IM messages, which I also receive. But when I try to reply it says that she's offline (with IM disabled). At the same time I'm offline for her on Adium, which makes me believe it might partly be an Adium problem for her instead of a site problem. But then it makes no sense that site-to-site only works one way (she can send to me, I can't to her), when I'm whitelisted for her as well. We checked if she could have blocked/muted me on Adium, that doesn't seem to be the problem.

Oh and one more unrelated glitch: when I activate the 1000 kilometer range IM whitelist it only sets it to the minimum of 50 kilometer and also automatically sets a the 50 kilometer range IM filter. Setting the 1000 kilometer range seems impossible and so is setting the whitelist without setting the filter (although the filter can be disabled manually afterwards, leaving the whitelist intact).


Feb 15, 2013 1:06pm

If you're both using Adium I wouldn't be surprised if they changed the IM interface and broke something on the 3rd-party IM clients.

If it's still a problem when you are both using the native IM, I would send a bug report including the info you provided above, or just send them a link to your last post here.


Feb 16, 2013 3:36am

I considered that, but when we're both using the website she can only IM me, I can't IM back, so I think it's unrelated to Adium. This must be some setting gone wrong between her and me, it's just so darn vague. I'll see if I can rule out some more variables and send a bug report when I'm completely at wits end.


Feb 16, 2013 3:22pm

I forgot in all the back/forth - do you have each other mutually favorited?


Feb 16, 2013 6:28pm

Yes, definitely, we've got each other favorited.


Feb 26, 2013 12:56pm

Hi there.  I'm the developer of the Adium/Pidgin plugin for OkCupid, and I got linked here by Azonata to throw in my 2c.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they changed the IM interface and broke something on the 3rd-party IM clients." Nope, hasn't changed :)

So far we're in the belief that it's something to do with distance filters, but hopefully once we get some debug logs from the plugin we'll be able to see what's going on :)


Feb 27, 2013 4:38pm

Thanks, keep us posted. Curious anomaly this appears to be.

FWIW: In my experience, OkCupid doesn't care much if you frequently change your profile location.

If it really is related to stated profile-owner location, I would try just changing your location, see if that fixes it. If maintaining your discourse with your friend is more important than soliciting interest from new local people, would seem to be a reasonable trade-off. ;-)


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