Who Invented Online Dating?

Matchmaker.com is on record as the oldest online dating service. Starting in 1986 as a system best described as an online bulletin board, Matchmaker.com was supported on a dial-up modem. Systems like this dominated the 80s to mid 90s and supported connections through local telephone area codes allowing the news to be read, message exchanges as well as participation on message boards and bulletins. Exchanging emails rapidly became popular and many had games or implemented chat rooms.


Bulletin board systems (or BBSes) where made targeting avid computers users or lovers unlike the World Wide Web that brought these and other functions to virtually everyone’s finger tips. The 1990s saw advancements in connections that reduced or eliminated the dial-up charges and the use of Bulletin Board systems grew.

Because Matchmaker.com moved to the internet in 1996 (almost 10 years after inception), Match.com is seen as the first internet dating service. Created in 1994, Match.com was placed on the internet in 1995 however; there is a distinction between ‘online dating’ and ‘internet dating’. It is this distinction that keeps Matchmaker.com in the pioneering spot.

Some reviews date the service’s internet launched to 1998 but upon visiting the online dating site readers will see 1996 as the year noted by the founder. This still puts it behind Match.com in terms of internet launch but it remains established as the first online regardless of which date is accurate because of its BBS history.

How Online Dating Started


When Gregory Scott Smith and Jon Boede (founder and programmer respectively) planned Matchmaker.com the idea was to design a pen pal service that would run on donations by users to eliminate having to charge a set fee. Located in Houston, Matchmaker started on 4 dial-up lines and expanded to San Antonio, Texas then San Jose, California shortly after. In 2008 it had an estimated 7 million users.

Time line

1986-Matchmaker.com begins as a Bulletin Board System on a dial-up modem platform.
1987-software becomes available for franchising by Boede. Subscriptions then fund an additional 12
local Matchmaker systems fostering expansion. Site also becomes visible on the internet
showing up on other sites and directories containing email addresses.
1992-upgrades to BBS technology eliminates long-distance expenses while opening up worldwide
access to Matchmaker.com
1996-(According to site)-Matchmaker.com is centralized and moved to the internet to facilitate the
traffic stemming from over 60 franchises.
2000-2006(January)-Lycos (web portal and search engine that carries broadband entertainment
content) starts running the site
2006 January-Date.com purchases the site.

Other information

Members are required to fill out a questionnaire consisting of essay and multiply choice questions. The service works by dividing members based on location and demographics the uses the percentage of responses that are identical to determine the most suitable matches by ranking them.

Many dating sites use suitability methods or ranking systems to find potential mates even if they arrive at the conclusion by different means. It can be argued that Matchmaker.com serves as the skeleton for most online dating sites today. Both services mentioned have expanded greatly however Match.com which started as an online classified ad service now boasts over 15 million customers