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“When we first studied online dating habits in 2005,” the research center explained in a follow-up published earlier this year, “most Americans had little exposure to online dating or to the people who used it, and they tended to view it as a subpar way of meeting people.” At the time of the study, was number two on Pew’s list of the top 10 “personals sites,” with e Harmony (founded in 2000 during the dot-com boom) a distant seventh.
Otherwise, the list is largely unrecognizable today, dominated by long-forgotten names like Mate1.com, True.com, and Market Range Inc., which sounds more like a pork-futures trading company than a dating site.
Most telling about precisely where the industry was in 2006 is the site that topped them all: Yahoo! By December of that year, Sunnyvale California’s favorite singles bar had only grown in favor.
Another survey noted a 13 percent increase, and that Yahoo Personals captured the top spot in the field.
The same article reported around 11 percent of adult internet users had visited “an online dating website or other site where they can meet people online” by 2006.
At the time, internet dating was the domain of the young, something no one younger than 35 would think twice about. Online dating may seem like a young person’s game, but according to many sociologists, the phenomenon was almost unheard of among users younger than 25.
New York University Professor of sociology Eric Klinenberg, who teamed with comedian Aziz Ansari for the 2015 book told Digital Trends: “There’s just not a lot of research out there. It’s still not a major field in the social sciences.” What is out there, particularly dating back to the relative dark ages of online dating, is murky, often relying on surveys commissioned by the sites themselves.
The extremely influential 2012 paper “Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary” by Michael J. Thomas of The City College of New York also notes that research into the internet’s impact on social dating norms was, in a word, lacking.
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