Global online dating market size

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In a poll last October by the Pew Research Center, just 21 percent of Internet users agreed with the statement “people who use online dating sites are desperate,” an 8-point drop from the last poll in 2005.

Disapproval has gotten especially rare among 20-somethings, who grew up with web dating as the norm, says e Harmony spokesman Grant Langston.

In the last few weeks, e Harmony has launched a personal matching feature called eh that Langston says will combine the company’s huge database with a real-live matchmaker--for 00 a pop.

And in May 2012, IAC launched Stir, which holds about 1,600 singles events per year nationwide.

In 1970, just 28 percent of American adults were single; today, the share is 47 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

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A 2012 paper in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest concluded that sites “build their algorithms around principles--typically similarity but also complementarity—that are much less important to relationship well-being than has long been assumed.” The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study reported that marriages that started online were only slightly less likely to end in divorce than others.

Of course there are sites aimed at specific religious or ethnic groups, but there are also those who aim to match couples with very specific interests.

The Passion Network, for example, is a small empire of 250 dating hubs like bronypassions.com, for fans of the My Little Pony TV series; for mustache mavens; and even zombiepassions.com, for those obsessed with the walking dead.

Thanks to the growth of such sites, the industry has expanded at 3.5 percent a year since 2008--right through the recession--to become a .1 billion powerhouse.

Analysts expect the acceleration to continue over the next five years.

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