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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.The stigma associated with online dating dropped over the years and people view online dating more positively.Most services offer digital messaging, while others provide additional services such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards.Members can constrain their interactions to the online space, or they can arrange a date to meet in person.Most free dating websites depend on advertising revenue, using tools such as Google Ad Sense and affiliate marketing.Since advertising revenues are modest compared to membership fees, this model requires a large number of page views to achieve profitability.Introduction sites differ from the traditional online dating model, and attracted a large number of users and significant investor interest.
Some have a broad membership base of diverse users looking for many different types of relationships.
Other sites target highly specific demographics based on features like shared interests, location, religion, sexual orientation or relationship type.
Online dating services also differ widely in their revenue streams.
Niche sites cater to people with special interests, such as sports fans, racing and automotive fans, medical or other professionals, people with political or religious preferences (e.g., Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.), people with medical conditions (e.g., HIV , obese), or those living in rural farm communities.
In 2008, a variation of the online dating model emerged in the form of introduction sites, where members have to search and contact other members, who introduce them to other members whom they deem compatible.
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 number of tasks, and less likely to use such a service if they are trusting of others.