Curious History Of Virtual Dating

 Curious History Of Virtual Dating

Virtual dating has become one of the most popular ways to find love or sex. Finding someone online has challenged the conventional methods of finding a romantic partner over the last few decades. The traditional ways of dating have decreased, whereas virtual dating has increased in recent years according to a Stanford study done in 2019.

The increasing popularity of virtual dating was quickly followed by the introduction of the first match-making websites which expanded on the idea of finding love remotely. With the increase of online dating pools every year people are becoming more likely to find companionship through dating websites and apps.


Let's take a look back in time and see where and how the virtual dating we see today started.

Back in 1959, Stanford students Jim Harvey and Phil Pialer try their hand at matchmaking using a punch card questionnaire and an IBM 650 mainframe computer, while carrying out a class project for the Happy Families Planning Services. Though they have successfully matched 49 men and 49 women, the idea was never commercialized. But it was considered the first attempt at a matchmaking service.

In 1965, two young aspiring Harvard students used an IBM 1404 computer to create the very first computer-based matchmaking service in the USA. They constructed a 75-question survey for love-hungry applicants to fill out, taking inspiration from the paltry dating scenario of post-war academia. To get a list of computer-generated potential matches, people have to mail their questionnaires along with a fee. The social experiment was known as Operation Match. Millions of users have utilized the service provided by Match in the 60s. Match became one of the most renowned domain names of its era after earning over 100,000 users in its first 6 months. The service was than sold to a Connecticut-based consumer service company, Cendant Corporation in 1998. And after that, just a year later another media company IAC acquired the company and developed the domain into one of the largest online dating sites.

With the development of technology, computers became more and more accessible to people. 

Early 2000s were the starting of a social media era. Social media made it very convenient for people to connect with one another inspite of their location or time differences. It opened up new gates of virtual dating for people worldwide.

In 2000, clinical psychologist Dr. Neil Clark Warren launches the online dating service named Eharmony. The main focus of eharmony was on matching compatible couples through scientific methods. With the improvements made in 2003, on eharmony now two people with good internet connection can easily hear and see each other, this allowed individuals to connect with each other even if they are miles apart. The site finds customers suitable matches based on their 32 dimensions of compatibility. 

In 2002, Friendster was created to connect friends, family and strangers. It also provided a free virtual platform to meet new people who can be a potential dating partners through one of the earliest site to provide of profile messaging.

In 2003, OkCupid was introduced into virtual dating market that purely focused on dating services. Made available for free, it gained popularity after creating application for mobile phones years later.

In 2004, Mark Zukerburg invented the social networking site Facebook. Though it wasn’t started as a virtual dating site, Facebook has a huge impact on how people connect and date using the internet. Moreover, the baffling feature of Facebook  “poke” became a flirting tool for the social site.

In 2007, introduction of 3G network and smartphones to mass markets, allowed the virtual daters to communicate on the go. Zoosk was also founded in same year. It was one of the first dating sites to also offer a mobile application.

70% of the same sex relationships start online. The introduction of a Gay dating app called Grindr in 2009, sparked a kind of a sexual revolution within the gay community. With Grindr the gay men can now find a sexual partner out of a devious backroom deal, it became as easy as opening an app on phone. Just six months after the launch of iphone 3G, Grindr appeared in the app store. It was the first dating app of its kind to use geolocation technology. The application was initially launched for Apple and found its way to Android devices in 2011. 

In 2012, Tinder and Hinger hit the virtual dating market with their never-before-seen features. Tinder took geolocation based matching to the next level. While other dating sites and apps let users search by location, Tinder shows potential matches who are in your real time area. 

On the other hand, the Nobel prize winning algorithm– Gale-Shapely Algorithm, helped Hinge to stand out as a dating app. The algorithm was used to match compatible individuals based on their desired interests or behaviors. 

In 2014, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the former vice president of marketing for Tinder founded Bumble. Its female first messaging policy combined with the Tinder’s swiping method made Bumble a hit. Being described as a feminist dating app by its founder, the unique concept of Bumble put it into the position of second most popular dating app used today.

In 2017, Geoff Anderson launched a dating application for people with cognitive or physical liabilities named Glimmer. Anderson have witnessed his brother’s struggles for finding a potential match on a dating app, so he thought of making one by himself for people like his brother and helping them find a romantic partner.

Final thoughts

Today, finding a romantic partner is not concise to placing an ad in a newspaper, through some family member, through a  mutual friend and at work. The methods have evolved drastically in last few decades.  

For people out there who think online dating is the antithesis of romance, studies claim that meeting your partner online leads to more satisfying relationships, and lower divorce rates. As suggested by Static Brain Research Institute, more than 49 million individuals have tried virtual dating, and according to Forbes, almost 8000 dating sites are currently available on the web. 

Since its initial conception after the introduction of internet, virtual dating is evolving with technology. The virtual dating application have revolutionized the dating scenes and with its growth it only continue to normalize in the future. 


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