Under this metaphor, members of a given service can both "shop" for potential relationship partners and "sell" themselves in hopes of finding a successful match.
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.
Members can constrain their interactions to the online space, or they can arrange a date to meet in person.
A great diversity of online dating services currently exists.
Opinions and usage of online dating services also differ widely.
Some sites are completely free and depend on advertising for revenue.
An online dating service is a company that provides specific mechanisms (generally websites or applications) for online dating through the use of Internet-connected personal computers or mobile devices.
Such companies offer a wide variety of unmoderated matchmaking services, most of which are profile-based.
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, or relationship type.