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Its critics charge that sites' claims of matchmaking prowess are often greatly overblown.
Mark Thompson, a former executive in the online-dating trade, now an author, believes that television ads showing starry-eyed couples boasting about how they found their perfect match online should carry warnings that such outcomes are hardly typical.
Another is that they are living longer, and hence more likely to look for new love later in life.
The spread of fast broadband connectivity in many countries has also encouraged people to dabble in online dating.
Deepak Kamra of Canaan Partners, an American venture-capital firm that has backed several dating services, including Zoosk and Bharat Matrimony, estimates that the industry's revenues from membership fees and advertising now amount to billion-4 billion a year.
Once seen as the last resort for a bunch of lonely geeks, online-dating services have gradually shed much of the stigma formerly associated with them.
Although they are still popular with tech types—Julian Assange, the mercurial co-founder of Wiki Leaks, reportedly once maintained profiles on dating sites under the name “Harry Harrison”—they now attract millions of people from many walks of life.
Searching for that special someone In addition to broad-based matchmaking sites such as Match and Zoosk, the online-dating world has also spawned thousands of niche ones.
Some, such as JDate, which is designed for Jewish lonely hearts, and Ave Maria Singles, which focuses on Catholics, serve specific religious or ethnic niches.