The history of

by Isabel Thottam

Since its inception, the idea of 'dating' has changed quite a bit. Dating used to consist of first dates that ended with marriage proposals, or families making marriage deals between their children. In the past three decades, dating has become more of a process that can last for years before marriage is even considered.

As generations change, so does the idea of dating and how one finds a companion. When the first modern newspaper was invented, people bought personal ads to discreetly connect and communicate with one another in hopes of finding love or sex. But, when the Internet was conceived, it connected us all, thus personal ads went digital and the Internet dating service was born.

Remember how Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks found love via AOL in You’ve Got Mail? From AOL chat rooms, to Myspace bulletins and Craigslist ads–the list goes on and on for ways in which people have used the Internet as a tool to find love, sex and friendship. In fact, online dating is the second-most-common way for couples to meet–right behind meeting through friends.

With 40 million Americans trying online dating services, it only becomes more normal every day. Below is a look at the history of online dating:


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Stanford students Jim Harvey and Phil Fialer try their hand at matchmaking while conducting a class project for the “Happy Families Planning Services.” Using a punch card questionnaire and an IBM 650 mainframe computer, Harvey and Fialer matched 49 men and 49 women.

Though the idea was never commercialized, this is noted as the first attempt at a matchmaking service.


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Harvard students Jeff Tarr and Vaughan Morrill used a questionnaire and an IBM 1401 to match students based on their similarities.

The social experiment was dubbed
"Operation Match"

and millions of daters used the service during the 60’s, paying about $3 to fill out a questionnaire.


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Before online dating websites launched, the World Wide Web was publically available for people to explore. In a quick succession, most of the dating websites we know today registered their official domains.

The term

'Online dating'

is currently searched over 135,000 times a month.


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By 1998, email becomes an essential part of everyday life with most people using it to organize and prioritize daily tasks.

In turn, messages became shorter and

'instant messaging'

allowed people to connect quicker and more conveniently.

1998 was also the year Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan starred in You've Got Mail, which helped normalize the idea of finding love on the Internet.


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Dr. Neil Clark Warren launches the online dating service, eHarmony, with a focus on matching compatible couples that are likely to have a long-term relationship.

eHarmony's matching technology utilizes a lengthy questionnaire,

which originally was in excess of 450 questions

but since has been reduced to about 150.


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In 2003, a new, free video chat serviced called Skype enters the online market helping long distance relationships become easier.

Two people with Internet connections can now easily hear and see each other, allowing online singles to connect, even from miles away.


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2004 is the year the social networking service Facebook was invented by Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard University dorm room. Though it wasn’t started as an online dating service, it has largely impacted how we connect and date using the Internet.

Moreover, the inexplicable Facebook ‘poke” became a flirting tool for the social site.


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In 2007, 3G and smart phones were introduced to mass markets, allowing online daters to communicate on the go.

The iPhone was particularly revolutionary at this time and dating apps would soon follow.

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In 2009, gay dating websites start to become popular and eHarmony launches Compatible Partners, along with a few other notable companies.


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Location based dating apps and social discovery applications start becoming extremely popular.

"Swiping left" and "swiping right" become synonymous with liking or disliking a potential match.

By 2014, one app claimed to record over a billion swipes per day.

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