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Online dating services allow users to become "members" by creating a profile and uploading personal information including (but not limited to) age, gender, sexual orientation, location, and appearance.Most services also encourage members to add photos or videos to their profile.Since advertising revenues are modest compared to membership fees, this model requires a large number of page views to achieve profitability.However, Sam Yagan describes dating sites as ideal advertising platforms because of the wealth of demographic data made available by users.
Other sites target highly specific demographics based on features like shared interests, location, religion, or relationship type.
Once a profile has been created, members can view the profiles of other members of the service, using the visible profile information to decide whether or not to initiate contact.
Most services offer digital messaging, while others provide additional services such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards.
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.
Profiles created by real humans also have the potential to be problematic.