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In 1995, less than a year after Netscape launched the first widely used browser, a site called was offering to help people answer those questions.

As befits a technology developed in the San Francisco Bay area, online dating first took off among gay men and geeks, but it soon spread, proving particularly helpful for people needing a way back into the world of dating after the break-up of a long-term relationship. The 2010s have seen these services move from the laptop to the phones with which young people have grown up.

Matching with same-sex partners over the internet is often far safer and more convenient than trying to do so in person.

Not all countries and classes are adopting online dating at the same rate or in the same way.

Tinder has 3.8m paying subscribers; a number of its founders and early employees are suing Match on the basis that it had intentionally undervalued the company to avoid making big payouts.

Although Tinder has a clear lead, there are competitors in America, such as Bumble, set up by one of Tinder’s founders after leaving the company, and around the world, all seeking to sell themselves on some refinement or other. Users of many dating apps already link to their Facebook accounts to show who they are; a dating app that knew all that Facebook knows would have a powerful edge if it could use it well—and if users did not balk at the idea in a post-Cambridge Analytica world.

Last year saw a rare Indian tech-sector IPO when raised 500 crore rupees (m) to help it target the marriage market.

In countries where marriage is still very much in the hands of parents, today’s apps offer an option which used hardly to exist: casual dating.

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