Online Dating – A Brief History


 

By Lucas Owen

 

Now that online dating has become very popular, it is always a good idea to understand its roots. Online dating has not only become very popular but it continues to appeal to a wide range of people with varying needs. So, how did online dating get to where it is today? What were its humble beginnings?

The 1960s and 1970s

The whole concept of commercializing the dating experience began in the 1960s and 1970s. This was when Introduction Agencies, particularly those in the US and UK had their customers answer general questions about themselves and what they were looking for by means of punch cards. They would then feed the information into their database which was maintained by magnetic tape. Then they would find a match through this database and begin the introductions.

1980s

By the late 1980s the journey toward online dating got ever closer. This was the time that using dial up connections became very popular. Early dating services such as Matchmaker.com initially began by using 4 dial up lines to connect singles by phone. But as time went on, the dial up modems could not handle the increasing traffic. Hence, the internet dating era began.

Early 1990s

This was a time when online based companies such as Prodigy and America Online were very popular. These companies established several chat rooms and forums which allowed single people to mingle. However, online dating wasn’t the main focus of these companies and as a result, many singles were left very much in need of a real and viable place to go to in order to find matches.

Mid 90s – 1994, 1995, 1996

This is really the era that brought on online dating companies that were geared towards online dating only. The first major online dating service to be registered was Match.com in 1994. It was registered by Gary Kremen and Peng T. Ong as a free beta site. The initial concept was to use it as personals advertising space for newspapers. But this idea changed soon after with the sheer boom of interest from so many singles. By the end of 1996, there were more than 15 online dating sites listed on the Yahoo Directory which at the time was the most popular directory on the internet. One of those was Seniorfriendfinder.com, which is part of Friendfinder Networks, the largest chain of dating sites in the world.

Late 1990s To Early 2000s

In the late 90s large corporations caught on to the online dating phenomena and acquired several online dating sites. This led to an explosion of online dating websites during the dot com boom of 2001. Several of these new dating websites were unoriginal and tried to mimic the most successful ones. Many of them fell when the dot com boom crashed in 2002.

2002-2004

This  was when social networking sites like Friendster and MySpace came into the scene. They replaced the hole that was left by many of the carbon copy dating sites that died with the dot com crash. However, the concept was that of social networking with friends primarily, leaving dating as only a byproduct. This concept was appealing to many because it helped remove the prevailing stigma at the time that meeting someone through an online dating site was only for desperate people. It felt more “appropriate” to say that they met someone through a social networking site than a dating website. By 2004 Facebook came into the picture. However, what these social networking sites actually ended up doing was inadvertently help the traditional online dating websites, by promoting the idea of meeting someone online to a much wider audience of varying ages from 18 years of age to people in their 70s.

2007

A huge boom in the online dating industry. By the end of this year, Americans had spent over $500 million on online dating websites according to the Online Publishers Association. This made the online dating industry the second highest earning industry for “paid content” on the internet. It was second only to the porn industry.

Present

Online dating continues to grow well into 2011 and beyond. Current online dating statistics show that 20 million people visit online dating websites every day and a 120,000 marriages are generated every year as a direct result of people using online dating services.

 

 

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