Beginning of online dating

The analytics provider Flurry was saying as far back as 2011 that mobile dating app usage exceeded desktop.

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“It makes you feel pathetic and desperate to sit there and fill out this survey that takes longer than doing your taxes, just to meet someone,” says Kate, a 31-year-old San Francisco resident who works for a large social media company. She signed up at the urging of a coworker during a shared bus ride home and within five minutes was swiping yes or no on potential matches while he looked over her shoulder, offering input. Freed from the anchor of the PC, e-dating has become a social activity.  For the first time, people can actually watch each other do it -- and there’s nothing like seeing a friend do something to make it feel normal.

Spend enough time at a bar on either coast and you’re likely to see a group of 20- or 30-somethings huddled around someone on her phone, urging her to swipe this or that way.

Whichever data set you favor, all the trend lines point in the same direction.

But it isn’t just about porting web experience over to mobile.

In 2013, the amount of time American spent on mobile devices, excluding phone calls, for the first time exceeded the time spent on PCs, according to e Marketer.

If people are already using their phones as credit cards, gaming consoles and movie theaters, it stands to reason they’d become matchmakers, too.

Then, in 2000, a new service called e Harmony purported to take the trial-and-error out of search by using a proprietary computer program that suggested the most compatible matches. (This is where OK Cupid entered the picture.) That brings us to the present.

Now, the pool has deepened such that around half of all single people use online dating services at some point, and the algorithms that power them have gotten about as smart as they’re going to get for the time being.

What users want isn’t more or better matches on the screen, says Yagan.

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