Love & Technology: A History

From the printing press to mobile apps, humans have always found ways to use technology to find love.

The Newspaper Ad
1685 Thank Gutenberg! The first known personal ads appear in a British agriculture journal. The publisher immediately recognizes its novelty and commercial potential — "'tis probable such Advertisements may prove very useful."
1870 A first newspaper for singles, The Matrimonial News, begins publication in post-Gold Rush San Francisco. Men pay $0.25 to place an ad (about $4.50 in today's dollars). Women post free. By 1900, there were no fewer than 20 similar publications.

The first known personal ad
The Link 1910s With growing acceptance of ads, "lonely soldiers" of World War I and women connect over personal ads. At the same time, authorities suspect that coded messages in The Link, the UK's first "lonely hearts" monthly, are promoting (then-illegal) homosexual activity. A trial finds the publisher guilty of gross indecency and the paper shuts down in 1921.
2000 San Francisco's Craigslist begins offering free personal ads. In 2010, the site closes an "erotic services" section after accusations it facilitates prostitution and sex trafficking.
Data & Dating
Dating poll 1940s A Newark-based company, Introduction, uses data as the foundation of a matchmaking service for "social equivalents." Contact information for a match costs $0.25.
1959 A Stanford student project becomes the first known computer dating service when an IBM 650 determines similarities between 98 subjects based on a 30-question profile. There was little romance in the punch cards for participants, but the students received an "A."
An IBM 650 and an IBM 1402 punchcard reader
1965Harvard student Tarr co-founds Operation Match. It was used by more than a million daters in the 1960s.
"We're not trying to take the love out of love. We're just trying to make it more efficient." — Jeff Tarr in 1966
With increased sophistication (100 questions and an IBM 1400 Series computer), New York City's first computer dating service, tact, opens. Despite thousands of customers, a co-founder believes computer dating a fad and leaves the company.
I <3 NY

I call this number / For a data date. / I don't know what to do. / I need a rendezvous. / Computer love.
Kraftwerk's Computer Love

1982The electronic band Kraftwerk's single "Computer Love" reaches #1 on the UK Singles Chart.
2004 40 years after Operation Match, four Harvard students launch what would become OKCupid. The site allows users to submit questions that others can weigh as important or not. OKCupid's popularity allows the company to correlate interests to dating actions. They find that frequent tweeters have shorter relationships than others, and that the best predictor of whether a date will have sex on the first date is whether he or she enjoys the taste of beer.
2007 ScientificMatch and GenePartner launch, offering to find mates based on DNA. Their tests look for complementary immune systems, something our noses do for us in person. It's easier than sending around swatches from sweaty T-shirts.
2012 Psychologists analyze online dating sites and report there's little reason to believe in compatibility algorithms:
"The most important predictors of relationship success are simply unavailable prior to a relationship's beginning."
Video Dating
1980s VCR sales skyrocket, and video offers new potential to see and hear your match. Unfortunately, matches look like they're from the 80s.
2005 Three PayPal employees dream up a video dating site called Tune In Hook Up — like the photo-voting site Hot Or Not, but with user-uploaded video. They scrap the idea and instead create YouTube.

2009 With the launch of ChatRoulette, entrepreneurs see potential (and other things they wish they could unsee) for online video. Though the site's buzz wanes as quickly as it grows, it marks a video dating renaissance with companies such as SpeedDate, WooMe and 15MinuteDate offering online video speed-dates. In 2012, Flikdate brings the video speed-date to Apple's mobile devices.
Google Glass
2013 Will wearable devices such as Google Glass and other augmenented reality and virtual reality devices allow for video dates on the go?
Online Dating
40 million The number of Americans who've tried online dating.
#2 Online dating is now the second-most-common way for couples to meet. (Meeting through friends is still #1.)
18.5 vs. 42 months
The average length of courtship before marriage for couples who met online vs. offline.
3x On one dating site, men viewed three times more profiles than women. Men were also 40% more likely to initiate contact than women.
61% By 2009, 61 percent of same-sex couples had found their partners online.
"Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won't look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because the right books are found only by accident." — Wired Magazine, 2002.
Percentage of Americans who met their partners online (and the year they met), as of 2009:
In the 1980s, Bulletin board systems allow people to chat online — at 300 bits per second — before meeting in person.

Matchmaker launches on BBS. It goes online, first as a franchise, then on its own (in 1996). When it was sold to Lycos in 2000, it was the third-most popular dating site.

In 1998, online dating gains legitimacy with the release of You've Got Mail. becomes the first modern dating website in 1994, followed by in 1995.

By 1996, there are 16 online dating sites listed in Yahoo!'s directory.

Also launched: FriendFinder (and later Adult FriendFinder) (1996), OneAndOnly .com (1996) and JDate (1997).
Founded in 2000, eHarmony now boasts more members than any other online dating site (20 million) and claims it is responsible for 80,000 marriages annually.

Also launched: DateHookup (2002).
PlentyOfFish, a free online dating site, launches in 2004. It is now the most searched for dating site, according to Google Zeitgeist.

Also launched: ChristianMingle (2004) and (2006).
In 2007, OkCupid and Zoosk combine social networking and online dating. Both sites rise quickly in popularity among young daters in the Web 2.0 era.

"We don't claim to evaluate you perfectly, but we do claim to find someone who claims to fulfill your claimed requirements, exactly." — OkCupid
Social Networking
2003-2011 Friendster
2003-2010 MySpace
2004- Facebook
A few months (and 3 million users) after the launch of the pioneering social network Friendster in 2003, BusinessWeek suggests the site "looks likely to live or die as a dating service." But users soon flocked to MySpace, then Facebook, and the site effectively shut down in 2011. It's now a social gaming site popular in Asia.
From soon after its founding to 2008, MySpace is the most popular social network, allowing people to create detailed profiles and "rank" each other's photos. The robot user Tom (actually site co-founder Tom Anderson) friends everyone automatically, but never finds love, if you don't count suitor/buyer News Corp.
From the start, users can "poke" each other on Facebook, but it's a miserable pick-up strategy. Messaging has a better track record... The documentary xoxosms (POV 2013) follows a relationship formed over Facebook, while Catfish (2010) highlights the problems of online courtship, with lies spiraling out into the real world.
In a recent poll, more North American women said they enjoy social networking (75%) than dating (72%).

24% of North American women say they would rather socialize online than in person.
Catfish (verb):
1. Non-spoiler definition: To be hoaxed.
2. Spoiler definition (highlight below to reveal):
To pretend to be someone you're not online by posting false information, such as someone else's pictures, on social media sites usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you.

81% of online daters lie about their age, height or weight.
Mobile Apps
Since its first mentions in the mid-1990s, sexting has quickly become mainstream. Now, mobile devices feel incomplete without at least a few ephemeral messaging apps installed on them.
So which app is right for you? Here are popular apps recommended for the gals (♀ via and the guys (♂ via
Are You Interested?
The app claims to be one of Facebook's largest apps, with 70 million installs.
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Boasts more than 170 million registered users in 180 countries.
Bang with Friends
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An app no one wants to admit they've installed, Bang With Friends connects Facebook friends who indicate they more-than-'like' one another.
How About We
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An app that encourages offline dates and guarantees "real dates... in the real world."
Let's Date
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Founded by the co-creator of the site Suicide Girls, Let's Date creates a dating card from your online data and keeps you anonymous until there's mutual interest.
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Founded in 2005 as MyYearbook, MeetMe is a rare social dating app that is also a publicly traded company.
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MeetMoi uses the location of your mobile phone to find the "dateable people all around you."
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OKCupid claims it's the "highest rated dating app available."
As the most popular mobile dating app, 20% of its revenue comes from selling things like "wink bombs," which allow users to send a flirt to 500 other users at once.
Singles Around Me
Singles Around Me is a location-aware app that helps you find singles near you, or where you'll be tonight.
300 million people are using this app, the "leading social network for meeting new people."
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Using Facebook to determine mutual friends, interests and location, Tinder will match you with compatible users. 'Like' a profile and if they 'like' you back, you'll be able to chat.
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Zoosk claims it's "the #1 dating app" with 25 million people using it worldwide.