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.
Most services offer digital messaging, while others provide additional services such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards.
Members can constrain their interactions to the online space, or they can arrange a date to meet in person.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 2005 study of data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that individuals are more likely to use an online dating service if they use the Internet for a greater number of tasks, and less likely to use such a service if they are trusting of others.