This metaphor of the marketplace – a place where people go to "shop" for potential romantic partners and to "sell" themselves in hopes of creating a successful romantic relationship – is highlighted by the layout and functionality of online dating websites.
Most sites allow members to upload photos or videos of themselves and browse the photos and videos of others.
Sites may offer additional services, such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards.
Some sites such as Ok Cupid.com, and are free and offer additional paid services in a freemium revenue model.
Some sites are broad-based, with members coming from a variety of backgrounds looking for different types of relationships.
As online dating's population becomes larger, sites with specific demographics are becoming more popular as a way to narrow the pool of potential matches.
The 20 most popular dating sites in 2006 as ranked by Hitwise include j (for Jewish singles), Christian Mingle.com, Christian Cafe.com, Man (same sex introductions), Love From India.ini, Black Christian People Meet.com, (for Latino singles), Asian People Meet.com, and (for Indian singles).
Due to the level of competition between free dating sites, as well as the overall drop in traffic to and revenue for dating sites generally, This represents a break from traditional externally sourced ads and is just one of the ways that the revenue models of free dating sites are evolving.
Especially popular in Eastern Europe, some sites offer full access to messaging and profiles, but provide additional services for pay, such as bumping profiles up to the top of the list, removing advertisements, making paying users' profiles appear several times in different places in the search results, and giving paying users a more advanced search engine to work with (in one example, free users may only search for persons of specified age, gender, orientation, and city, while subscribers may search for any and all parameters listed in profiles, such as height, weight, interests, etc.).
Online dating or Internet dating is a personal introductory system where individuals can find and contact each other over the Internet to arrange a date, usually with the objective of developing a personal, romantic, or sexual relationship.