Just a few years ago the online dating game was frowned upon. However, over time the stigmatic element slowly morphed into a gimmick. Like speed-dating, it was something people did, but didn't take particularly seriously. How times have changed...
It has now been over twenty years since the birth of online dating as we know it today – often considered the founding of Match.com – and it's soon-to-take the top-spot as the world's most effective way of finding a partner. According to a study conducted by eHarmony Australia, 22 percent of participants said that they met their partner through the web, while 24 percent said they had met their partner through a mutual friend.
It's hardly surprising why. After all, a digital profile is a way for singles to wear their best attributes on their sleeve, and find out more about someone they may be interested in without having to subject themselves to awkwardness. And those who recognized its power early – the majority of the big players registered their domain names in the mid-90s – are reaping the rewards.
In Short: Dating is BIG Business
There are more than 124 million singles in America alone; Tinder is available in 30 languages and boasts over one billion matches; and roughly 80% of males and females believe that online dating is socially acceptable – a massive boost from 2005's 29 percent. We are now living in an age where it's unusual for singles not to be swiping right and left. And everyone in the tech business is trying to get a piece of the pie.
Opening up to a partner for the first time is never easy. However, Internet dating has made the whole process easier to broach. And now that the big players have solidified the industry as an acceptable introductory method, apps and websites catering to more specific tastes are springing up to fill the missing voids.
More and More Niche Dating Sites Are Emerging
There's Bristlr, CNBC calls it the “Tinder for beards”. Unlike other, similar platforms, this niche dating tool is for women who want to date men with facial hair. There's Feeld, an app for couples looking to bring another person (a unicorn if you will) into the mix. There's even the aptly named Tindog... you guessed it, it's alike Tinder but for dog owners!
While many of these sites seem wacky and will probably have very short lifespans, there are others that will almost certainly withstand the test-of-time, and possibly even rise to greater prominence in the near-future. For example, the the rise of elderly dating sites – the older generation are slowly warming up to the idea – and PositiveSingles, which caters to those with sexually transmitted diseases. Niche applications that genuinely help people may not have the user-base of the larger players, but they'll certainly retain a viable place in the market. And the results are already starting to show.
All these niche dating sites are taking their toll on Match's portfolio, which includes Tinder, Plenty of Fish, How About We and OkCupid. With over 1,500 dating sites and applications to contend with, and a business model that relies solely on membership fees, revenue has been slowing down. This proves that there's still space in the market for others.
Wherever the industry is heading, one thing's for sure: dating will continue to be big business. Online apps and websites generate over $2 billion in the United States alone. But there are still plenty of “preferences” out there that are yet to find a suitable platform. And now that the whole idea of online dating is a socially accepted norm, perhaps we'll start to see a major shift away from the broader services in the not-so-distant future.