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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.

Profiles created by real humans also have the potential to be problematic.

For example, online dating sites may expose more female members in particular to stalking, fraud, and sexual violence by online predators.

Such sites earn revenue from a mix of advertising and sale of additional options.

This model also allows users to switch between free and paying status at will, with sites accepting a variety of online currencies and payment options.

There are mixed opinions regarding the safety of online dating.

Other sites target highly specific demographics based on features like shared interests, location, religion, sexual orientation or relationship type.

Online dating services also differ widely in their revenue streams.

The 2016 Pew Research Center's survey reveals that the usage of online dating sites by American adults increased from 9% in 2013, to 12% in 2015.

Further, during this period, the usage among 18- to 24-year-olds tripled, while that among 55- to 65-year-olds doubled.

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