They messaged for a few days by fax and email before speaking on the phone, and then went on their first date to a Chinese restaurant in 1996.
Freddie wasn’t technical enough to upload a picture, so Bill had no idea what she looked like - which was relatively common in the early days.
Reclining on a purple velvet throne, inside his castle – a sixth-floor office in a grey tower block in central London – Karl Gregory is reeling off some of his favourite statistics. ” He whisks a print-out from a pile of papers on his desk and prods a blurry image in the middle.
“517,000 relationships, 92,000 marriages and around a million babies,” he grins. It’s a picture of a customer’s baby scan under the words: “all thanks to Match.com”.
It was free to fill in and provided users with a report informing them how many of the men/women on his system matched their responses. Klien, a somewhat eccentric philanthropist whose interests include cryogenics and the Lifeboat Foundation (an NGO dedicated to the preservation of human life in the event of global disaster), now lives in Reno, Nevada.
He has never spoken about the “Matchmaker”, and when I track him down he is brusque and to-the-point.
It was called the Atlantis Project and it aimed to build an independent city called Oceania in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
The couple from California are among the first in history to have gone on an online date – and, two decades later, have a long, happy marriage to show for it.
“I had just broken up with somebody and I decided, aged 53, that maybe it was time to get married,” says Freddie.
“It started off as sheer geek territory,” says Gregory. Stigma was high.” Jane Stuart barely told anyone when she set up a profile on the site in 2001.
“Back then, there was a sense of 'Oh, you must be really desperate,’” she says.