Dating websites can give people a "surprisingly high" chance of long-term romance, suggests a study published on St Valentine's Day.
Could internet dating lead to a life-long match?
Some 94% of UK online agency customers questioned saw their "e-partner" again after the first face-to-face meeting.
Bath University psychologist, Jeff Gavin, surveyed 229 adults, finding web dating worked "for many people".
But he told BBC News that 4% of those customers who took part in the study "were already married".
UK-based internet dating agencies have an estimated six million subscribers.
Most of these, Dr Gavin said, provided very little space for would-be romancers to describe themselves.
The bond formed between customers came, instead, from later communication, particularly online chatrooms.
This was a more "immediate" way of communicating than e-mail and allowed people to express their true feelings.
However, only 9% of chatroom users chose to converse via a webcam, most "shying away" in favour of "text-based relationships".
Dr Gavin said: "What struck us was how the more traditional aspects of relationships seemed strong.
"Those people who wrote letters or sent gifts tended to help strengthen their bond."
Almost one in five of those interviewed had started a relationship lasting more than a year via a dating website.
Dr Gavin said this represented a "similar level of success" to partners who had met "in more conventional ways".
Male website customers tended to be "more committed" than female ones, as subsequent chatroom conversations gave them a way to express their feelings which did not normally exist.
Dr Gavin added: "Lots of people join sites because they don't get time to go to bars and clubs to meet.
"When online dating agencies first started they were quite standard. Nowadays there are all sorts of niches.
"There are gym-goers' sites, where fit people meet other fit people, Christian sites and university graduate sites - it's incredibly diverse."
Is online dating good for romance? Send us your views and experiences using the form below.
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
I'm American and my husband is British we met five years ago on the net via an online role playing game and have our first wedding anniversary in two months. We didn't actually meet in person for a year after meeting, and spent huge amounts of time on the phone and the net via our game. My dad explained it to my grandparents as modern day courting! You can't do anything but talk and get to know each other. At 35, neither of us has ever been happier. I do recommend several months before actually meeting and be honest if you are serious!
D and M, Woking
I met my man on the net too. Not an internet dating service, but a chat room. Highly recommended. I'm overweight, and I knew he'd never have looked at me twice in a bar, or club, but he "fell in love with the real Hazel" before he'd even seen me!
I met my wife on a dating website. We married last April and are expecting our first baby this April. We couldn't be happier. I've met the love of my life. My soul mate. I would recommend dating websites to anyone. They do work.
Adam Stevenson, Plaistow, West Sussex, England.
I tried it a long time ago, but the men I met were all, without exception, control-freaks, psychos and/or chauvinists, and usually married. From a personal point of view, I'd say avoid it like the plague, but if it is all you have got, be very, very careful. It is far too common an occurrence that women get caught in dangerous situations using the world wide web.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK
I met my husband Mike via email in 1997. We were simply friends until I met him face to face later that year. We dated over the net for most of 1998, and were married in England in April '99. I think that online couples have a good chance of making it, as long as neither party misrepresents themselves. Being straight up from the start makes all the difference.
Cait Ramshaw, Ft. Pierce, FL, USA
I met my fiancé online almost four years ago. We are getting married in July. I wasn't looking for it, but it just happened. I'm happy that I let myself get into something less than traditional, otherwise I would have missed out on this great love. I think people need to be vigilant about who they meet online, but sometimes wonderful things can happen.
Linda, Montreal, Canada
I met my partner online. After chatting online for a few days through an online dating site, we spoke on the phone. That first phone call lasted over four hours. I think we both knew then that it was meant to be, there was definitely something there from that start. We have seen each other ever since. Have now been together for over two years and have been living together for 10 months. We are very well suited to each other. If I had never used internet dating I would not be with my partner now. So I can definitely say is a good thing to meet someone online.
Paul, West Yorkshire
I started internet dating 5 months ago and was very sceptical about it to begin with. You're bound to meet some guys who aren't right for you - that's life. If you hold on in there, the chances of you meeting someone that you're compatible with are much greater. I almost gave up looking, but have recently met a lovely guy that I share a lot in common with. We get on brilliantly and love spending time with him. Internet dating does work - you've just got to sift the wheat out from the chaff! I know a number of people who've had successes with internet dating and one person who has ended up getting married. I definitely recommend it.
It does work. 4 years ago I was using an internet chat room, not looking for anything in particular and having a bit of fun. I met the most amazing man, and after exchanging lots of emails and hours on the phone we met up about 3 weeks later. I knew he was the man for me within about 5 minutes of meeting him face to face. We've been married for 6 months now.
Siobhan, Birmingham UK
I've joined a few web-sites in order to find 'the right' partner and found that e-mail based 'relationships' are good only up to a point. For me it has proved a great way to make friends but relationships need other forms of contact, ie, phone and in person, if it is to work long-term. My only wish is that there were more sites for friendship and not just relationships.
Natalie Buxbaum, Sydney, Australia
I met my wife on the net in 2001 while I was living in England, we are still married and still very happy. I would never have found her if it wasn't for the internet
Alan Taylor, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
It can be good for romance and is certainly a way to meet people that you wouldn't normally meet. It didn't work out for me, unfortunately; I dated a man for two years that I had met online before finding out that he was married with children. I think I will stick with more traditional methods of meeting people in future. If you meet someone through friends, you automatically get a background check on that person!
Catherine, Manchester, UK
Anything that has the power to allow would be lovers to find each other can only be a good thing for romance. Online dating has helped bring agency dating into the 21st Century and break the stigma that finding love this way is superficial and, let's face it, a bit desperate. When love has the chance to prevail - who cares how it starts? I don't see the difference between meeting someone in a room at a house party or in a chatroom online - both are just as coincidental and have the potential to develop into the perfect star-crossed match that was always meant to be!
George, Manchester, UK
I met my husband through an online dating site. I dated for about 7 months prior to meeting him and had a short term relationship and several dates, as with some of the other comments there were people who were doing it for the wrong reasons and you definitely need to have an open mind and realistic expectations. The good thing is though that when you meet a genuine person you know they want the same things as you and I count myself extremely lucky to have met such a wonderful man who shares so many interests as me.
My friend met her husband online but she is the only one I know where it actually worked out. My sister has been dating online for years and while she made some good friends she still hasn't found the right man!
Franziska, Sevenoaks, UK
I was sceptical about meeting someone over the internet. But it happened to me three years ago. I met my boyfriend chatting and then in December 2003 (about 18 months later) we finally met up, with no real intention other than to meet, and ended up falling in love. So, it can happen, it does happen, and it will happen again!
Sam Polo, Geneva, Switzerland
I met my future wife online because of my interest in Latin America. All we wanted was to be friends, four-and-a-half year's later we are getting married next month. She lives in Australia and is moving to England after the wedding. It does work.
I feel this is the way forward in finding a soulmate. Once you can link up with someone, then the process of blending can begin. I wish people all the best in finding their partners for a life-time of love and happiness. Getting along in a positive way is a plus, being honest and sharing your feelings is the key.
Dr Archie M. Khan, Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia
My wife bought me on the internet! I'd joined a on-line dating agency about 18 months previously, at about 2am having got back home alone yet again from having been out with the lads, but had only gone on one date in that time and that was on the girls request. By chance one night after not looking for several months I found a contact request from my to-be wife, we met and within a year we had become engaged and within 18 months were married. There are risks but I can recommend it.
Terry, Horsham, Sussex
Internet dating never works. You can be sure that if a person says one thing to you, they are saying the exact same thing to someone else.
I met my future wife in a chat room, she's Russian so it would have been highly improbable to have met any other way. We're happily married and had our first child last year. I think the internet is wonderful.
Anonymous in London, UK
I tried on-line dating for a long time, it cost me a fair bit of money and met many unsuitable people. However, I stuck at it, and in May 2001 I met Claire, ironically through a free online dating service! We clicked instantly and both knew we'd met the right person. We were married in July 2003! I was one of the biggest sceptics of online dating before I met Claire, but it just shows that if you look at the right websites, learn from your mistakes, and remain positive, it can work!
Richard Wilson, Reading, UK
I live in a rural area of Lincolnshire so online dating seemed an obvious choice - I met someone also from Lincolnshire but living at the other side of the county, also in his 50's......but for the dating site we would never have met and 14 months on we are living together, happy and very much in love - the system works!!
Marion, Lincoln UK
I've had a few dates with women I've met online and also tried speed dating. Although I know there must be some nice women out there, I can see why a lot of them are single. At just 25, I've come to believe that all the good ones are gone. Take my advice, find someone good while you are young, and keep them!
John, London, UK
I met my boyfriend on an online dating site nearly 8 years ago now. We're still very much in love and couldn't be happier!
It's a fun addition to real life dating in your spare time, but filled with the shallow, the flaky, game players and attached people looking for affairs. Most of the dating services are cynical money grabbing exercises and not properly designed to help people meet. Overall, using free sites is the best option.
I met the most loving man i know on an internet dating service nearly 2 years ago, we have been very much in love ever since, and are now looking to the future to getting married. I would most certainly recommend using the internet to anyone.
Yes, it allows people to be themselves - even their hidden selves. They're free to express their true beliefs, ideas and personality without the usual social constrains of worrying about pleasing others. Therefore, their true personality begins to emerge.
Heather Underwood, Kuwait
I have been with my girlfriend for over 4 years after meeting her on the internet. The main advantage to this form of meeting is that an attraction is formed based on personality rather than appearance. Therefore, the hardest part is taken care of when you do eventually meet face to face. Obviously, there are problems with the medium, particularly sickos pretending to be something they aren't, but other than that I believe it to be a very good point of contact for people. It is certainly better than the nightclub scene for meeting people who you may wish to spend more than one night with.
Robert Wood, Bradford, UK
I'd agree that people tend to see someone else again, but I think it's because there tends to be an expectation after chatting online that the first date must be just the first. There's a pressure later saying that you're not interested since the other party can always see that you're online and tries to chat again. I joined an online dating service last year but had more success with a guy I met in the pub while waiting for my 'first date' to turn up!
Dom M, London, UK
My partner and I met through an online personal ads site. Five years later and on top of still being together, we are now engaged. I think online dating can be a very good thing, however, there is still a slight taboo about the whole area, especially when so much publicity is given to how some people use the internet for other purposes - ie "grooming of victims". Such is the taboo, only a handful of our closest friends know the truth about how we actually met.
Definitely! I met my girlfriend on a dating site and we are still going stronger than ever, well over two years later. We'd probably both still be single if it wasn't for online dating.
I was in a relationship that was tired and stale after nearly 13 years. I found my soulmate and love of my life on the internet through chatting about a work interest. We chatted for about two years then met and fell in love. We now have a little girl and plan to wed in 2007. We are both very happy and extremely content.
Graeme Hutchison, Doncaster, England
I met my husband online in 2001...we chatted every night for 3 months, met for the first time in January 2001, moved in with each other in July 2001 and married in May 2004! We are extremely happy and, although it is still embarrassing sometimes to say, "we met online", it's becoming more acceptable. However, you have to be very careful and very wary - it's very easy to get carried away and it can be dangerous. Use common sense and you'll be able to weed out the time wasters and weirdos...
Sarah, London, UK
I met my partner of two years through an online dating agency, and to some extent we still can't believe we did as we are so well suited to each other. When we met neither had the expectation of a long term relationship - we just wanted someone to go to gigs and go down the pub with - but it was 'love at first sight.' Having said all that, it wasn't as straightforward as that. When I joined the dating agency I was inundated with messages from sad, lonely and desperate men saying things like, 'If you are a single mum, I'd still marry you' and 'I'm looking for a nice woman to lose my virginity to'. So the message is clear - it does work but you have to sort out the wheat from the chaff first.
Sam, Birmingham, UK
I have tried internet dating - the main problem for me was that the guys were shorter than they stated! And at 5'7", I am a fairly tall girl, so this was quite an issue for me. I met up with a total of five guys from the internet - they were not the weirdos that I think is assumed with web-dating. They were decent guys, but there just wasn't that spark. As I am young, at 23, I still think the physical and sexual attraction has to be as high as the conversational abilities. Maybe for someone a little older, they would put different priorities on these preferences. Now I am staying clear of it - after meeting someone on a dating website, you don't expect them, after four months, to say they don't really want a relationship - what was he doing on there of that was the intention all along?!?! The blokes were all ok, but it's just not for me!
H A, Essex
I met my now husband through an internet dating site. Both in our fifties - didn't do clubs, pubs, etc and were really only looking for friendship, but following a few e-mails, and telephone conversations, it was love at first sight when we met. Engaged within three months and married a year later. Now have five children and five grandchildren between us. Life couldn't be better.
Jenny Hewkin, Birmingham, West Mids
I met my wife on the internet using a dating agency. I found I was working long hours and rarely had the time to meet other people outside of my group of friends and colleagues. I felt too old for night clubs (ie older that the average age of 17!) and they were never my scene anyway. I think as time becomes an ever decreasing commodity in people's lives, data agencies and dating events (such as speed dating) will become a more common way of people meeting. I met my wife four years ago and I've never had any regrets. I don't think I'd have a met a person as perfect as her if I'd spent a lifetime trawling bars and nightclubs.
Martin Randall, Wakefield, UK
I met my partner via an online forum and after chatting for a few months online and by phone, we met up and realised that the chemistry we shared at a distance was certainly there in person. We slowly started seeing each other and we are now two years down the line, living together and aiming to get married. Who knows, maybe he'll ask me tonight! None of my friends or family knows that we met online - I'm a successful business woman, with a great group of friends and a very active social life. I joined the forums for a giggle but ended up finding the man of my dreams. I'd recommend online dating to anyone, but would also reiterate the security factors you have to take - any decent man will understand that.
Back in '98 when it was unfashionable to date over the net I found my Swedish girlfriend while I was sitting in Middlesbrough chatting on the net. Now we have two kids and live in Sweden and we are enjoying a very happy life together.
Andrew, Göteborg, Sweden