Online dating services essentially spawned from online mail order bride services in the 1990s. Before Internet dating there were mail order brides, which were no more than women who were sold to a man who would then take them to a new country and have the ordered bride marry him. I personally find mail order brides massive ethically irresponsible and abhorrent because it is a woman selling her life and her soul to a man she’s never met; also, the two do not have a relationship before they are married because a mail ordered bride is bought in order to fill a gender role of a wife and nothing else. Nevertheless, the technology was developed into a service that provided a forum and scientific social networking that had the sole purpose of allowing people to find their “match” or “soulmate”.
These sites require the the prospective patron(s) to reveal personal information about themselves such as their likes, dislikes, dreams, goals, hopes, desires, gender, age, location, etc. so that the dating service can then match them up with another person whose qualities mash up well with their own. The sites also provide the capability to upload photos of yourself as well as browse through photos of other prospective dates, they provide a chat feature so you can instant message a prospective date, they also provide webcasts, telephone chatting, message boards, online games, offline events and forums. Some sites are free like Okcupid.com and others like Eharmony.com are paid sites.
These dating services are first and foremost businesses. They use market metaphors in order to match people up together. Managing Director of Olson Zaltman Associates, Lindsay Zaltman asserts that all consumers (those who use dating sites are indeed consumers) are irrational, self-absorbed and 95% of the things that we think and feel is unconscious, thus it is necessary for consumer insight to be a part of the dating sites so the dating services can be as efficient as possible with as much “match” success as possible (Zaltman).
These online dating sites must have abided by Zaltman’s claims because the United States generated $957 million in revenue in 2008 from online dating service (Mitchell, 3). 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 growing by several large commercial services, including AOL Personals, Yahoo! Personals, Match.com, and eHarmony (Mitchell, 6). These sites then advertise on television and the Internet and boast at how good they are at being able to read their consumers as consumers, and if one is going to pay the fee to find love then it will be well worth the money.