None of the companies are interested in making it clear what secret data sauce—if any—they add to their wares.Where data are available, mostly through national surveys, sociologists like Mr Thomas have found that online dating by and large leads to better matches—presumably because of the far greater choice of partners it offers.
Last year saw a rare Indian tech-sector IPO when raised 500 crore rupees ($70m) to help it target the marriage market.
In countries where marriage is still very much in the hands of parents, today’s apps offer an option which used hardly to exist: casual dating.
In 1995, less than a year after Netscape launched the first widely used browser, a site called was offering to help people answer those questions.
As befits a technology developed in the San Francisco Bay area, online dating first took off among gay men and geeks, but it soon spread, proving particularly helpful for people needing a way back into the world of dating after the break-up of a long-term relationship. The 2010s have seen these services move from the laptop to the phones with which young people have grown up.
Today dating sites and apps account for about a sixth of the first meetings that lead to marriage there; roughly the same number result from online encounters in venues not devoted to such matters.
As early as 2010 the internet had overtaken churches, neighbourhoods, classrooms and offices as a setting in which Americans might meet a partner of the opposite sex.
Yu Wang, the chief executive of Tantan, founded in 2015 and now one of China’s largest dating apps, says the country’s offline dating culture is practically non-existent.
“If you approach someone you don’t know and start flirting, you’re a scoundrel,” he says.
Bars and restaurants have fallen since (see chart).
For those seeking same-sex partners the swing is even more striking.
The business is worth .6bn globally, growing fast and highly competitive.