This image was lost some time after publication., the online dating and rating site run by Jim Young and James Hong, is abandoning its experiment in free, ad-supported user profiles and is reverting back to paid memberships. Is this a sign of failure? According to an email from Young and Hong to past and current members, no. Free profiles led to a flood of spammers that were overloading the website — an outcome that members had predicted at the time. Plausible. And yet plenty of other sites offer free profiles while keeping spammers at least somewhat in check. Could this actually be a tacit acknowledgement that all the assumptions that cofounder Hong made in a blog post announcing the move to make HotorNot free three months ago were, well, wrong? That online advertising is not, in fact, HotorNot's future? The full email after the jump.

Dear loyal HOTorNOT star members,

Based on feedback we got from many of you, we have decided to start requiring star memberships on HOTorNOT again. While many of you saw how going free would be good, you also warned us that this would probably lead to more spammers and fake profiles.

You were right, this is exactly what happened. The spammers got aggressive to the point where they were screwing up the system, even causing the "someone wants to meet you" emails to not be sent for periods as long as 5 days.

We don't really regret trying to make the site free so everybody can use it, but it's clear that most of our users believe an inexpensive paid site works better than a free site filled with spammers.

If you left the site after we went free, we hope you'll come back and join again. If you are still here, we hope turning subscriptions back on has a noticable impact for you, helping you meet more people without having your time wasted by the spammers.

thanks, and have fun!

Your friends,
Jim and James

Update: James Hong has responded in the comments.