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The 2016 Pew Research Center's survey reveals that the usage of online dating sites by American adults increased from 9% in 2013, to 12% in 2015.Further, during this period, the usage among 18- to 24-year-olds tripled, while that among 55- to 65-year-olds doubled.Some sites are completely free and depend on advertising for revenue.

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Most services offer digital messaging, while others provide additional services such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards.Members can constrain their interactions to the online space, or they can arrange a date to meet in person.Introduction sites differ from the traditional online dating model, and attracted a large number of users and significant investor interest.In Eastern Europe, popular sites offer full access to messaging and profiles, but provide additional services for pay, such as prioritizing profile position, removing advertisements, and giving paying users access to a more advanced search engine.That is, online dating sites use the conceptual framework of a "marketplace metaphor" to help people find potential matches, with layouts and functionalities that make it easy to quickly browse and select profiles in a manner similar to how one might browse an online store.

Under this metaphor, members of a given service can both "shop" for potential relationship partners and "sell" themselves in hopes of finding a successful match.While some sites conduct background checks on members, many do not, resulting in some uncertainty around members' identities.For instance, some profiles may not represent real humans but rather "bait profiles" placed online by site owners to attract new paying members, or "spam profiles" created by advertisers to market services and products.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.Over 50% of research participants in a 2011 study did not view online dating as a dangerous activity, whereas 43% thought that online dating involved risk.