Some sites are completely free and depend on advertising for revenue.
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Other sites target highly specific demographics based on features like shared interests, location, religion, or relationship type.
Online dating services also differ widely in their revenue streams.
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.
The stigma associated with online dating dropped over the years and people view online dating more positively.
Most free dating websites depend on advertising revenue, using tools such as Google Ad Sense and affiliate marketing.
Since advertising revenues are modest compared to membership fees, this model requires a large number of page views to achieve profitability.
Most services also encourage members to add photos or videos to their profile.
Once a profile has been created, members can view the profiles of other members of the service, using the visible profile information to decide whether or not to initiate contact.
Profiles created by real humans also have the potential to be problematic.
For example, online dating sites may expose more female members in particular to stalking, fraud, and sexual violence by online predators.
Such companies offer a wide variety of unmoderated matchmaking services, most of which are profile-based.