The Web can't quite turn a normal human being into some kind of sexual deviant. But it certainly seems to open new doors to two-timing: iPhone applications promise to keep safe from prying eyes your love notes—or sweet promises to "treat you rough. Throw you around, spank and slap you," as Tiger Woods promised a mistress in recently released texts. Some Web sites facilitate, even encourage affairs; others vow to expose cheaters to the world. The problem (other than the obvious scumminess of fooling around on your significant other)? These methods of concealing and/or exposing illicit romance almost never work as intended.
Take, for example, TigerText, an iPhone application that's been making the news lately. The app, developed by X Sigma Partners LLC, is supposed to let users to send and receive text messages that can be set to self-destruct after a user-determined length of time. Furthermore, the texts bypass cell-phone carriers in favor of TigerText's own servers.
Jeffrey Evans, creator of TigerText, hopes the app will attract young professionals who already use texting as their main mode of communication; by using the app, they won't have to worry about their work discussions becoming public knowledge if their phones end up in the wrong hands. News stories about TigerText have played up the "coincidence" that the app shares its given name with the famous philandering (and text-messaging) golfer, which has given the app a nice publicity boost (and at 99 cents for the 250 messages-per-month plan, probably some new subscribers).
However, some users are frustrated that it only works iPhone-to-iPhone, and that screen captures can grab an image of the conversation before it's deleted. Evans is quick to note that versions for the Android OS and BlackBerry are forthcoming, and has something to say to people paranoid about screencaps: "If [a TigerText user] is that concerned with that level of privacy, we decided we needed to find a way to solve that problem too, and we'll be coming out with a version in the near future that will do just that."
But vaporizing the texting trail won't entirely free cheaters of the stink of their own sins. What happens when your significant other, perhaps feeling a little suspicious, goes to check your phone and sees TigerText installed? Or when she checks your phone bill and spies the monthly TigerText charge? Though Evans says, "Ninety-nine percent of anything anyone sends over text has nothing to do with salacious activity. You just don't need your text messages to live forever," the app's very presence, at least in the mind of the suspicious, is nearly as incriminating as the messages themselves.
Just as cheaters can try to use TigerText to keep their naughtiness at bay, they can also turn to sites like Craigslist and the "find me a sugar daddy" database AshleyMadison to locate new partners. But if it's too good to be true, it probably is: Many users of the site, which caters to married people searching for flings, have complained of scams and "profile robots" that charge money to make initial contact and then are never heard from again. AshleyMadisonSucks.com chronicles some of these encounters, though it's a little hard to feel sympathetic toward these would-be cheaters. And Craigslist comes with its own drawbacks.
Once-loved ones can try to use equally public methods of getting even. DontDateHimGirl.com is an online resource for both women and men who are experiencing relationship troubles. Its most popular feature: a database of known two-timers, including full names, locations, aliases, and itemized betrayals. Considering the site was founded in 2006, the database is substantial in size. And now the site now has a new competitor: CheaterRegistry.com. In its press release, the site trumpets: "With the recent media coverage on the infidelities of public figures such as Tiger Woods, John Edwards, David Letterman, and the many other politicians, athletes, and celebrities, the time for a site that reveals proven cheaters couldn't be better." CheaterRegistry is quite similar to DontDateHimGirl: You can search a database to see if your new suitor has a suspect history; cheating victims can add their exes and even prove their guilt by uploading e-mails, texts, or photos. Everything on CheaterRegistry is behind a log-in page, so users must sign up for a free membership to search or add cheater entries.
Log-in aside, there's no real way to check the validity of the postings on CheaterRegistry or DontDateHimGirl. Those looking for new and creative ways to embarrass an ex easily use the sites for pure malevolence against the innocent. Indeed, that's just what a criminal attorney claimed when he filed suit against DontDateHimGirl in 2006, a case that lingered for two years before being settled.
The good news for those worried about being flayed online? DontDateHimGirl's search-engine optimization is, frankly, lousy: I Googled names from several postings and wasn't able to find their DDHG listing within the first 10 or so pages of results. And its traffic isn't any better: According to QuantCast's admittedly rough estimates, since September 2009, the site has struggled to crack the 50,000 visitor mark. For comparison, QuantCast estimates about 10 million monthly visitors for Match.com. It seems being a "uniter" like Match is a better business proposition than publicly humiliating people.
The Internet may open some doors for budding Don Juans and Juanitas, but it's clear that there are no foolproof methods for covering your tracks or for finding temporary bed-warmers. Cheaters and scorned lovers alike are probably better off keeping their dirty laundry analog; these sites and apps seem to be more trouble than the carnal (or revenge) desires are worth.