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Online dating services allow users to become "members" by creating a profile and uploading personal information including (but not limited to) age, gender, sexual orientation, location, and appearance.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.Most services offer digital messaging, while others provide additional services such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards.
However, Sam Yagan describes dating sites as ideal advertising platforms because of the wealth of demographic data made available by users.
In Eastern Europe, popular sites offer full access to messaging and profiles, but provide additional services for pay, such as prioritizing profile position, removing advertisements, and giving paying users access to a more advanced search engine.
Such sites earn revenue from a mix of advertising and sale of additional options.
Opinions and usage of online dating services also differ widely.
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.