This metaphor of the marketplace – a place where people go to "shop" for potential romantic partners and to "sell" themselves in hopes of creating a successful romantic relationship – is highlighted by the layout and functionality of online dating websites.
Some sites such as Ok Cupid.com, and are free and offer additional paid services in a freemium revenue model.
Some sites are broad-based, with members coming from a variety of backgrounds looking for different types of relationships.
Users of an online dating service would usually provide personal information, to enable them to search the service provider's database for other individuals.
Members use criteria other members set, such as age range, gender and location.
Some sites provide free registration, but may offer services which require a monthly fee.
Other sites depend on advertising for their revenue.
A German documentary analyzed the market and uncovered multiple problems of online dating sites.
Amongst them are "romance-scamming" (persons registering on the sites to get money from people falling in virtual love with them), using controllers or animators registered with multiple fake accounts, using unexpected and sometimes unlawful conditions in the terms and conditions leading to longer contracts a client intended to sign.
Since 2003, several free dating sites, operating on ad based-revenue rather than monthly subscriptions, have appeared and become increasingly popular.
Several newer sites such as Ok are beginning to offer more full featured dating services for free, and are starting to compete with staples in the free dating site world such as
Most sites allow members to upload photos or videos of themselves and browse the photos and videos of others.