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Due to the level of competition between free dating sites, as well as the overall drop in traffic to and revenue for dating sites generally, This represents a break from traditional externally sourced ads and is just one of the ways that the revenue models of free dating sites are evolving.
Some sites are broad-based, with members coming from a variety of backgrounds looking for different types of relationships.
Users of an online dating service would usually provide personal information, to enable them to search the service provider's database for other individuals.
Members use criteria other members set, such as age range, gender and location.
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.
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.
In Germany government financed NGOs like "Verbraucherschutzzentrale" sometimes help to sue online dating sites.
This problem is referred to as "catfishing" in pop-culture and has been made famous by a popular MTV program called "Catfish the TV show".
As online dating's population becomes larger, sites with specific demographics are becoming more popular as a way to narrow the pool of potential matches.
The 20 most popular dating sites in 2006 as ranked by Hitwise include j (for Jewish singles), Christian Mingle.com, Christian Cafe.com, Man (same sex introductions), Love From India.ini, Black Christian People Meet.com, (for Latino singles), Asian People Meet.com, and (for Indian singles).
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.