Since 2003, several free dating sites, operating on ad based-revenue rather than monthly subscriptions, have appeared and become increasingly popular.
Several newer sites such as Ok are beginning to offer more full featured dating services for free, and are starting to compete with staples in the free dating site world such as
At the end of November 2004, there were 844 lifestyle and dating sites, a 38% increase since the start of the year, according to Hitwise Inc. By 2007, many prominent studies show that Baby Boomer interest in online dating have soared.
However, market share was increasingly growing by several large commercial services, including Personals. Some online dating websites provide webcam chats between members.
This metaphor of the marketplace – a place where people go to "shop" for potential romantic partners and to "sell" themselves in hopes of creating a successful romantic relationship – is highlighted by the layout and functionality of online dating websites.
The marketplace metaphor may also resonate with participants' conceptual orientation towards the process of ﬁnding a romantic partner.
Other sites are more specific, based on the type of members, interests, location, or relationship desired.
A 2005 study of data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that individuals are more likely to use an online dating service if they use the internet for a greater amount of tasks and less likely to use such a service if they are trusting of others.
The highest scoring dating service was Facebook, which uses the personal homepage genre, the message board genre, the weblog and directory genre, as well as utilizing the Circle of Friends.
The second highest scoring, Second Life utilizes virtual worlds, message boards, chat groups and profile pages to allow people to contact in a three-dimensional environment.
Online dating sites use market metaphors to match people.
Match metaphors are conceptual frameworks that allow individuals to make sense of new concepts by drawing upon familiar experiences and frame-works.
Users of an online dating service would usually provide personal information, to enable them to search the service provider's database for other individuals.