With its chats, platforms and bulletin boards, the internet has become the courting place of the 21st century. Still, Germany lags behind in the e-love trend.
Looking for that special someone is now easier than ever
Helen Morrison was a pioneer of modern love: In 1727 she placed the first known lonely hearts ad in a Manchester newspaper -- and was immediately sent to a madhouse. The first person to place a partner ad on the Internet remains anonymous, so we'll never know if they winded up in a psychiatric unit as well.
Since then, the Internet has revolutionized dating. Instead of relying on chance, millions of lonely hearts these days are taking the matter into their own hands and proactively looking for a suitable partner online.
Something for everyone
Looking for company?
In the German-speaking areas alone there are hundreds of Online dating services. Many of them cater to their users' special needs: There are websites for truck drivers, hippies, wine experts, dog lovers, vegetarians, heavy metal fans, and the hard of hearing.
Since digital dating became a global phenomenon, the number of couples that have found their happiness online is in the millions.
The dating service shaadi.com, incorporating roughly 50 million users, is one of the top 10 Web sites in India. Hundreds and thousands of marriages have already been initiated this way, and thousands of couples express their gratitude on the site.
Match.com claims to be the largest dating service worldwide -- and one of the oldest ones, too. They've been online since 1995. "For the Internet era, that's even before Stone Age," says Brigitta Schall from match.com.
Germans reluctant to look online
Since 2003 the site is available in German, too. More than 15 million users have sought a partner here -- from every age group and every part of the world. About one tenth come from German-speaking regions, but in Schall's opinion that's not enough. She says it's a problem of mentality.
"Online dating doesn't have the same acceptance as in England or the US," she said, adding that Germans are reluctant to admit they are looking for their partners online.
Hans und Doreen are one success story
Doreen and Hans don't belong to this group -- at least not any more. After failed relationships, the two Berliners signed up on the singles page at the beginning of the year without expecting to find the love of their life.
"It was just for fun," said Doreen. "My mother used to look for a partner through singles ads in newspaper," Doreen said. "I smiled at that and always thought, that's not going work anyway." But that was before the Internet.
Finally face to face
Connecting on the World Wide Web is just the first step in starting a relationship, of course, and most don't stay digital for long. According to a survey by the University of Bath, 80 percent of couples who met at a dating platform had their first real date within one month after their first online encounter.
Hans and Doreen took that step after just a couple of e-mails. They chose a local cocktail bar as the location for their first date. It wasn't exactly a "blind date," though, because they already knew what the other looked like.
"This is one of the biggest advantages," said Hans. "If the other one is reasonably honest, you avoid nasty surprises."
Hans and Doreen's online honesty paid off. They met for a second date shortly after their cocktail bar rendezvous and moved in together just a few weeks later.
"Now I found exactly what I didn't dare to dream of," said Doreen.