An online dating service is a company that provides specific mechanisms generally websites or applications for online dating through the use of Internet-connected personal computers or mobile devices. Such companies offer a wide variety of unmoderated matchmaking services, most of which are profile-based. Online dating services allow users to become "members" by creating a profile and uploading personal information including but not limited to age, gender, sexual orientation, location, and appearance.
Most services also encourage members to add photos or videos to their profile. Once a profile has been created, members can view the profiles of other members of the service, using the visible profile information to decide whether or not to initiate contact. Most services offer digital messaging, while others provide additional services such as webcasts , online chat , telephone chat VOIP , and message boards.
Members can constrain their interactions to the online space, or they can arrange a date to meet in person.
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A great diversity of online dating services currently exists. Some have a broad membership base of diverse users looking for many different types of relationships. Other sites target highly specific demographics based on features like shared interests, location, religion, or relationship type.
Online dating services also differ widely in their revenue streams. Some sites are completely free and depend on advertising for revenue. Others utilize the freemium revenue model, offering free registration and use, with optional, paid, premium services. Opinions and usage of online dating services also differ widely. That is, online dating sites use the conceptual framework of a "marketplace metaphor" to help people find potential matches, with layouts and functionalities that make it easy to quickly browse and select profiles in a manner similar to how one might browse an online store.
Under this metaphor, members of a given service can both "shop" for potential relationship partners and "sell" themselves in hopes of finding a successful match. The stigma associated with online dating dropped over the years and people view online dating more positively. Further, during this period, the usage among to year-olds tripled, while that among to year-olds doubled. Online daters may have more liberal social attitudes compared to the general population in the United States.
Sites with specific demographics have become popular as a way to narrow the pool of potential matches. In , a variation of the online dating model emerged in the form of introduction sites, where members have to search and contact other members, who introduce them to other members whom they deem compatible. Introduction sites differ from the traditional online dating model, and attracted a large number of users and significant investor interest. Since , several free dating sites, operating on ad based-revenue rather than monthly subscriptions, have appeared and become increasingly popular.
In Eastern Europe, popular sites offer full access to messaging and profiles, but provide additional services for pay, such as prioritizing profile position, removing advertisements, and giving paying users access to a more advanced search engine. Such sites earn revenue from a mix of advertising and sale of additional options. This model also allows users to switch between free and paying status at will, with sites accepting a variety of online currencies and payment options. Most free dating websites depend on advertising revenue, using tools such as Google AdSense and affiliate marketing.
Since advertising revenues are modest compared to membership fees, this model requires a large number of page views to achieve profitability. However, Sam Yagan describes dating sites as ideal advertising platforms because of the wealth of demographic data made available by users.
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There are mixed opinions regarding the safety of online dating. While some sites conduct background checks on members, many do not, resulting in some uncertainty around members' identities. For instance, some profiles may not represent real humans but rather "bait profiles" placed online by site owners to attract new paying members, or "spam profiles" created by advertisers to market services and products.
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Profiles created by real humans also have the potential to be problematic. For example, online dating sites may expose more female members in particular to stalking , fraud , and sexual violence by online predators. Media coverage of crimes related to online dating may also contribute to perceptions of its risks. The emergence of dating sites that promote adultery, such as Ashley Madison , has stirred some controversy. Online subscription-based services can suffer from complaints about billing practices.
Some online dating service providers may have fraudulent membership fees or credit card charges.
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Furthermore, different functionalities may be offered to members who have paid or not paid for subscriptions, resulting in some confusion around who can view or contact whom. Consolidation within the online dating industry has led to different newspapers and magazines now advertising the same website database under different names. In the UK, for example, Time Out "London Dating" , The Times "Encounters" , and The Daily Telegraph "Kindred Spirits" , all offer differently named portals to the same service—meaning that a person who subscribes through more than one publication has unwittingly paid more than once for access to the same service.
On any given dating site, the sex ratio is commonly unbalanced.
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When one gets into the specialty niche websites where the primary demographic is male, one typically gets a very unbalanced ratio of male to female or female to male. Studies have suggested that men are far more likely to send messages on dating sites than women.
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There is some evidence that there may be differences in how women online rate male attractiveness as opposed to how men rate female attractiveness. Gay rights groups have complained that certain websites that restrict their dating services to heterosexual couples are discriminating against homosexuals. Homosexual customers of the popular eHarmony dating website have made many attempts to litigate discriminatory practices.
Less than half of Internet daters are open to dating people of all races. A class action lawsuit alleged Match. In , a former employee sued adultery website Ashley Madison claiming repetitive strain injuries as creating fake profiles in one three week span "required an enormous amount of keyboarding" which caused the worker to develop severe pain in her wrists and forearms.
In January , an already-married Facebook user attempting to close a pop-up advertisement for Zoosk. Questions like How satisfied are you with your thighs? They were also more likely to think of themselves as sexual objects, to internalize societal ideals about beauty, to compare their appearances to others and to constantly monitor how they looked, the researchers found. This was true for men as well as women. But the most fascinating result of all was that men—not women—who used Tinder had the lowest levels of self-esteem.
That may simply be because so many more men than women use Tinder, the researchers speculate. Past research has shown that women are more discerning with their swipes than men, who swipe right more liberally. But saying yes so often with the flick of a finger comes with a risk: And that can take a toll, perhaps, on those young men.