Some sites are completely free and depend on advertising for revenue.Others utilize the freemium revenue model, offering free registration and use, with optional, paid, premium services.
Most services also encourage members to add photos or videos to their profile.
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.
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That is, online dating sites use the conceptual framework of a "marketplace metaphor" to help people find potential matches, with layouts and functionalities that make it easy to quickly browse and select profiles in a manner similar to how one might browse an online store.
Under this metaphor, members of a given service can both "shop" for potential relationship partners and "sell" themselves in hopes of finding a successful match.
Most free dating websites depend on advertising revenue, using tools such as Google Ad Sense and affiliate marketing.
Since advertising revenues are modest compared to membership fees, this model requires a large number of page views to achieve profitability.
At the end of November 2004, there were 844 lifestyle and dating sites, a 38% increase since the start of the year, according to Hitwise Inc.