Essay on Love At First Byte

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8/8/2014

Online dating: Love at first byte | The Economist

Online dating

Love at first byte
Online-dating sites have made it easier for people to click with one another. But they still leave something to be desired

Dec 29th 2010 | SAN FRANCISCO | From the print edition
FOR the lovelorn, the new year can be an unhappy time, as they cast envious glances in the direction of lovey-dovey couples at the season's parties. For online-dating agencies, it is a golden opportunity, as people who have spent the holidays ruminating over unsatisfactory or nonexistent love lives log on in their thousands, hoping to find romance—ideally before February
14th. “The period between New Y ear's Day and Valentine's Day is our busiest six weeks of the year,” explains Sam Y agan, the boss of OkCupid, a big American dating site.
Once seen as the last resort for a bunch of lonely geeks, online-dating services have gradually shed much of the stigma formerly associated with them. Although they are still popular with tech types—Julian Assange, the mercurial co-founder of WikiLeaks, reportedly once maintained profiles on dating sites under the name “Harry Harrison”—they now attract millions of people from many walks of life. ComScore, a research firm, says Match and Zoosk, two large dating services based in the United States, saw 4.6m and 4.8m unique visitors respectively come to their American sites in November 2010. Meetic, Europe's biggest dating service, also boasts millions of users.
Blowing cyberkisses has become a popular pastime in emerging markets too. In countries and cultures in which arranged marriages are common, sites such as India's Shaadi and
BharatMatrimony, which boast many millions of clients, are a big hit with young people who want to influence how their marriage partners are chosen. And a number of sizeable digital matchmakers, including Jiayuan and Zhenai, have risen to prominence in China. Deepak
Kamra of Canaan Partners, an American venture-capital firm that has backed several dating http://www.economist.com/node/17797424/print 1/7

8/8/2014

Online dating: Love at first byte | The Economist

services, including Zoosk and BharatMatrimony, estimates that the industry's revenues from membership fees and advertising now amount to $3 billion-4 billion a year.
Searching for that special someone
In addition to broad-based matchmaking sites such as Match and Zoosk, the online-dating world has also spawned thousands of niche ones. Some, such as JDate, which is designed for
Jewish lonely hearts, and Ave Maria Singles, which focuses on Catholics, serve specific religious or ethnic niches. Others appeal to rather less conventional interests. Vampire lovers can sink their teeth into the profiles on offer at Vampire Passions, while those obsessed with iPads and iPhones can hunt for their iBeloveds at Cupidtino, a dating site for fans of Apple's products.
The rise of these and other dating sites has been driven by several trends in society. One of these is that people now move around more often for work, distancing themselves from friends and family members who could play matchmakers. Another is that they are living longer, and hence more likely to look for new love later in life. The spread of fast broadband connectivity in many countries has also encouraged people to dabble in online dating.
Academics who have studied the industry believe that it and other forms of electronic communication such as e-mail and social networks are starting to have a significant effect on the ways in which people find love. In a study presented at the American Sociological
Association's annual meeting in August, Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University and Reuben
Thomas of the City College of New Y ork reviewed data from a survey of more than 3,000
Americans with romantic partners. They concluded that among heterosexual couples who met in 2009, the internet had become the third most common way of making initial contact— behind introductions from friends, but…