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Matching with same-sex partners over the internet is often far safer and more convenient than trying to do so in person.The internet thus helps those with similar, and sometimes quite specialised, views on what makes for good sex, or indeed on more or less anything else.Once confined to particular times and places, dating can extend everywhere and anywhere.Not all countries and classes are adopting online dating at the same rate or in the same way.“It’s unprecedented.”For most of human history, the choice of life partner was limited by class, location and parental diktat.In the 19th and 20th centuries those constraints were weakened, at least in the West.

Same-sex dating, which both operates in a smaller pool than heterosexual dating and is illegal or socially unacceptable in many places, is a particular beneficiary.But on Tantan “you don’t expose yourself, there’s no danger of getting rejected, you cannot lose face.” As of February, Tantan had 20m users and had created some 10m couples, Mr Wang says, adding: “That’s a significant effect on society.”Unfortunately, the level of significance is hard to analyse or quantify.A great deal of the relevant data are treated as proprietary by the companies gathering them.In 2013 Tinder, a startup, introduced the masterfully simple idea of showing people potential partners and having them simply swipe right for “yes” and left for “no”; when two people swiped right on each other’s pictures they were put into contact with each other. Such phone-based services are more immediate, more personal and more public than their keyboard-based predecessors.More immediate because instead of being used to plan future encounters, or to chat at a distance, they can be used on the fly to find someone right here, right now.

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