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Some sites are completely free and depend on advertising for revenue.Others utilize the freemium revenue model, offering free registration and use, with optional, paid, premium services.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.
Profiles created by real humans also have the potential to be problematic.
For example, online dating sites may expose more female members in particular to stalking, fraud, and sexual violence by online predators.
A 2005 study of data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that individuals are more likely to use an online dating service if they use the Internet for a greater number of tasks, and less likely to use such a service if they are trusting of others.
It is possible that the mode of online dating resonates with some participants' conceptual orientation towards the process of finding a romantic partner.
However, Sam Yagan describes dating sites as ideal advertising platforms because of the wealth of demographic data made available by users.
There are mixed opinions regarding the safety of online dating.A great diversity of online dating services currently exists.Some have a broad membership base of diverse users looking for many different types of relationships.Other sites target highly specific demographics based on features like shared interests, location, religion, or relationship type.Online dating services also differ widely in their revenue streams.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.Still others rely solely on paid membership subscriptions.Opinions and usage of online dating services also differ widely.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.