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.
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.
Most free dating websites depend on advertising revenue, using tools such as Google Ad Sense and affiliate marketing.
Niche sites cater to people with special interests, such as sports fans, racing and automotive fans, medical or other professionals, people with political or religious preferences (e.g., Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.), people with medical conditions (e.g., HIV , obese), or those living in rural farm communities.In 2008, a variation of the online dating model emerged in the form of introduction sites, where members have to search and contact other members, who introduce them to other members whom they deem compatible.Introduction sites differ from the traditional online dating model, and attracted a large number of users and significant investor interest.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.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.