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.Last year several elderly British women sent money to American soldiers whose profiles they had come across on dating sites, only to discover subsequently that the profiles were bogus.And there have been instances of rapists using dating sites to prey on women.But some sociologists, such as Millsom Henry-Waring of the University of Melbourne, have given warning that electronic forms of communication in general—and digital-dating services in particular—are gradually changing society's conception of relationships and marriage for the worse by encouraging people to view partners as commodities that can simply be traded in for better versions at the click of a computer mouse.Dating executives retort that although the industry is not perfect, many of the criticisms levelled at it are unfair.In countries and cultures in which arranged marriages are common, sites such as India's Shaadi and Bharat Matrimony, 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.
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 almost on a par with encounters in bars and restaurants.
One is its ability to create large pools of potential partners that would be hard to replicate in the real world.
This explains why online dating has proven especially popular with, for example, homosexuals.
Mark Thompson, a former executive in the online-dating trade, now an author, believes that television ads showing starry-eyed couples boasting about how they found their perfect match online should carry warnings that such outcomes are hardly typical.
Dating sites have also been accused of failing to take robust enough action to protect vulnerable users from fraudsters and sexual predators.