Online Dating 2.0


Online dating has grown from a niche activity in the early to mid-1990s, into a leading way that couples meet. It is no longer simply the purview of early adopters and tech-savvy 20-somethings, but is now a legitimate tool in the single person’s dating toolbox.

As the platforms and tools (e.g., mobiles and apps) used in online A niche no more 2 dating evolve, this is helping to usher in an era in which romantic relationships are increasingly intermediated by communications technology—but also in which the tried-and-true, face-to-face and “referred by a friend” types of interactions still have their place.


  • Online dating generates between $2 billion and $4 billion globally each year.
  • Growth of mobile dating apps topped all mobile-app growth between 2010 and 2011.
  • As mobile dating grows, it could make online dating less mathematical and more personal.


The evolution of online dating, and the growth of mobile dating, hinge on several societal and technological trends.

  • Social networks. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Flickr have helped condition consumers to share information about themselves and relate to others online in new ways. This has helped to ease people who might otherwise be reluctant into the idea of online dating.
  • Just-in-time lifestyles. Rather than planning social events days in advance, busy Gen Xers and Millennials have largely adopted just-in-time social lives, with plans often made in real- time. This behavior is compatible with emerging mobile-dating services, many of which use location information from smartphones to connect people who are in close proximity to each other.
  • Mobiles and app culture. The adoption of mobile dating services is being fueled by smartphones and the apps on which they rely. In February 2012, some 50% of US mobile phone subscribers had a smartphone, up from 36% the previous year.2 Many dating sites have mobile apps, and the mobile dating services that are seeing the most growth are those that are mobile only—in other words, that have no traditional website.


As online dating has grown, so has the range of sites catering to interests or hobbies of ever more select groups. Some of these sites include:

  • Cupidtino (for fans of Apple products)
  • Geek2Geek (for self-proclaimed “geeks”)
  • /
  • Alikewise (booklovers)
  • (older boomers)
  • (Star Trek fans)
  • (Ivy Leaguers)
  • (vegetarians)


  • For digital natives like Millennials, and those generational cohorts that will follow, online and mobile dating will be just another tool in their social toolbox, not something new or extraordinary.
  • As these consumers increasingly lead lives that make no distinction between online and offline, there will be no distinction between online dating and “traditional” dating—it will just be dating.
  • As a result, the remaining stigmas about the “realness” or authenticity of relationships in which partners have never met in real life will continue to fall away.


  • As online dating and relationship management become a de facto part of life, it will change the way people meet and will alter the expectations and rhythms of dating and relationships. Companies that have traditionally benefitted from established practices of dating (e.g., a drink at a bar, weekend trips, small gifts of flowers or a bottle of wine) will need to figure out how they can still capture the attention and revenue of 21st-century online daters—for whom dating will be more linked to mobiles, social networks, and other digital spaces.
  • Mobile dating could be a strong—but overlooked—driver for the adoption of augmented reality systems. The promise inherent in AR’s ability to provide location-based overlays and even real- time information about a person’s day, history, or mood will be valuable not only to those meeting for the first time, but also to those already in relationships.
  • There are obvious opportunities in partnering with dating sites—online, mobile, and face-to-face—for access to the consumer data they gather from their users. But this should be