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ONLINE DATING

A Net dating service, also known as online dating or internet dating, is an example of a dating system and allows individuals, couples and groups to meet online and possibly develop a romantic or sexual relationship. Net dating services provide un-moderated matchmaking through the use of personal computers, the Internet, or even cell phones.

Such services generally allow people to provide personal information, then search for other individuals using criteria such as age range, gender and location. Most sites allow members to upload photos of themselves and browse the photos of others. Sites may offer additional services, such as webcasts, online chat, and message boards. Sites sometimes allow people to register for free but may offer services which require a monthly fee.

Many sites are broad-based, with members from a variety of backgrounds looking for different types of relationships. Other sites are more specific, based on the type of members, interests, location, or relationship desired.

U.S. residents spent $469.5 million on online dating and personals in 2004, the largest segment of “paid content” on the web, according to a study conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and comScore Networks.

At the end of November 2004, there were 844 lifestyle and dating sites, a 38 percent increase since the start of the year, according to Hitwise Inc. However, market share was increasingly being dominated by several large commercial services, including Yahoo Personals, Match.com, American Singles, and eHarmony. eHarmony CEO Greg Forgatch noted that despite the growing number of sites catering to specific niches, "to become a major player, it still takes a large number of people."

In 2002, a Wired magazine article forecast that, "Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love without looking for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because 'the right books are found only by accident.' Serendipity is the hallmark of inefficient markets, and the marketplace of love, like it or not, is becoming more efficient"[1].

The online dating trend has also become very successful in Europe in the past decade. Not only has match.com opened local branches in European countries to cater to their particular culture and language, but also a French company, Meetic, has become one of the top sites. Their success has encouraged new start-ups and niche sites to come on board.


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Problems with Online Dating Services

There can be a variety of problems with online dating sites. Some sites expect members to sign up "blind", with no preview of the type of profiles they will get to see. Some profiles are not actually real people, but "bait" put there by the site owners to attract new paying members. Some users spam sites with "fake" profiles that are in reality advertisements to other services, such as prostitution or multi-level marketing. A majority of dating sites keep profiles online for months or even years since the last time the person has logged in, thereby making it seem as though they have more available members than they actually do. Many sites offer the option to sort search results based on activity, however. Most sites still have significantly more male members than female.

Even when members' profiles are "real", there is still an inherent lack of trust with other members. Many members misrepresent themselves by telling flattering 'white lies' about their height, weight and age, or using old or misleading photos. Members can, of course, ask for an up-to-date photograph before meeting others.

Some sites cater to people with special interests (e.g. sports fans, nerds), professions, political preferences, conditions (e.g. HIV+, obese), or religions.

Matrimonials Sites are a variant of online dating sites, and these are geared towards meeting people for the purpose of getting married. Gross misrepresentation is less likely on these sites than on 'casual dating' sites. Casual dating sites are often geared more towards short term (and implicitly sexual) relationships.



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