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In 1995, less than a year after Netscape launched the first widely used browser, a site called was offering to help people answer those questions.As befits a technology developed in the San Francisco Bay area, online dating first took off among gay men and geeks, but it soon spread, proving particularly helpful for people needing a way back into the world of dating after the break-up of a long-term relationship. The 2010s have seen these services move from the laptop to the phones with which young people have grown up.Tinder has 3.8m paying subscribers; a number of its founders and early employees are suing Match on the basis that it had intentionally undervalued the company to avoid making big payouts.Although Tinder has a clear lead, there are competitors in America, such as Bumble, set up by one of Tinder’s founders after leaving the company, and around the world, all seeking to sell themselves on some refinement or other. Users of many dating apps already link to their Facebook accounts to show who they are; a dating app that knew all that Facebook knows would have a powerful edge if it could use it well—and if users did not balk at the idea in a post-Cambridge Analytica world.More personal because the phone is intimate in a way the keyboard is not, camera-ready and always with you. Many people now feel quite happy swiping left or right on public transport, gossiping to their friends about potential matches.Screenshots of possible partners fly back and forth over Whats App and i Message.Once confined to particular times and places, dating can extend everywhere and anywhere.Not all countries and classes are adopting online dating at the same rate or in the same way.
In the 19th and 20th centuries those constraints were weakened, at least in the West.
The benefits are clearest for people whose preferences mean that discovering possible partners is particularly hard, either because of social isolation or physical isolation.
Same-sex dating, which both operates in a smaller pool than heterosexual dating and is illegal or socially unacceptable in many places, is a particular beneficiary.
The internet is the primary meeting space for same-sex pairings, whether casual or more than casual: 70% of same-sex relationships start online.
“This is a very big shift in how people find their partners,” observes Reuben Thomas, a sociologist at the University of New Mexico.