Human courtship behaviors have been evolving throughout the course of history. From arranged marriages to speed dating, different cultures have unique ways of attracting a mate. Heavily influenced by the technology boom of the late '90s, dating, like many aspects of our everyday lives, has gained a strong online presence. The business of love, where companies help singles find relationships, has grown into a thriving industry.

In Pictures: Millionaires By Marriage

Online dating is generating billions in yearly revenues, with a forecasted growth rate of 10%. An escalating variety of websites exist to help people find whatever they are looking for – some sites focus on helping people find their one true love, while others try to match people in a common area looking for a one night fling. Whatever you preference, there is a dating website to accommodate your needs.

Something For Everyone
For example, Ashley Madison is a popular service that matches married people looking to have discrete extramarital relations; the company slogan reads "Life is short, have an affair." On the other hand, Womenbehindbars seeks to match incarcerated women looking for loving relationships after their release. Like many other such websites, this one focuses on picking partners of a particular race. The information about the type of crime they committed is harder to obtain. (Learn more about relationship finances in Marriage Vs. Common Law: What It Means Financially.)

Essentially, there is a website specific to every preference: women seeking rich men, men seeking rich women, even singles who share a common interest in Star Trek. With ranging membership fees and features that vary from website to website, surfers should determine what sort of relationship they are looking for prior to exploring the fascinating world of online dating.

The Serious Dater
Scientific Match uses breakthrough DNA sequencing technology to match clients based on specific genetic traits. DNA analysis of specific immune markers, in addition to a personality test, determines which couples will have the best chemistry. Two thousand dollars buys you a life time membership and a DNA testing kit which is sent to your home – simply swipe the inside of your mouth with a cotton swab and send the sample to the lab. Scientific Match truly takes "relationship chemistry" to the next level.

The popular eHarmony is another internet dating company whose focus is on creating long-term meaningful relationships. Compatibility is determined by the eHarmony Compatibility Matching System algorithm where over 400 questions determine 29 psychological dimensions such as emotional health, values and skills. This test was devised by clinical psychologist Dr. Neil Clark Warren who defined the keystone traits of a successful marriage. Every day an average of 236 eHarmony members happily marry. So if you are serious about finding your soul mate, the $59.95 one month membership could be a great long-term investment.

The Casual Dater currently serves over 20 million users, 51% of whom are female, in over 37 countries. For $16.99/month clients are given a guarantee that if they are not matched with a comparable partner in six months, the next six months will be free. Furthermore, features such as dating tips, a relationship profile advisor and five daily suggested matches are provided to clients. Unlike Scientific Match which mainly targets singles looking for marriage, is a fun alternative allowing members to have a large amount of dating exposure.

Although other service sites such as Plenty of Fish offer similar features for free,'s large client base makes them very appealing.

Internet giants such as Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) see the long-term growth potentials of online dating in our digital world. Yahoo! Personals currently serves over 10.5 million members looking to find love. In addition to the basic dating features, members have access to an assortment of dating articles, dating tips, online dating coaches, dating advice and even ice-breaker messages. After all, starting an online conversation can often be as difficult as saying "Hi" to that cute girl or boy at the bar. Yahoo! Personals offers a seven day free trial for those who are still uncertain about entering the online dating scene.

Social networking sites such as Facebook are also commonly used to find potential partners who share similar interests/acquaintances. Facebook provides a free alternative to stay in touch with childhood friends and maybe even rekindle any romantic sparks you once had with your junior high flame.

The Future of Dating
Internet dating was once thought of as a sorry alternative to finding a relationship, used only by those who could not do so through "regular" means. However, this business has exploded in recent years in all segments of society and offers many advantages to those who are busy with school and careers, or are just tired of the bar scene and want to try something new. Curious or doubtful singles can browse most major dating sites to read about the many heart-warming success stories.

For more on the financial implications of relationships, read 6 Famous Prenup Screw-Ups.

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