“I was worried that people would think I couldn’t get a boyfriend normally. Things were different, too – I didn’t have a laptop and certainly didn’t have internet on my phone, so I was logging on in my lunch break at work.” Then, Jane, a 28-year-old travel saleswoman from Twickenham, west London, came across Andreas Palikiras, an olive-skinned marketing manager from Corfu.Fourteen years later, the pair are married, with twin four-year-old daughters, and, rather aptly, their own Greek wedding business.Match.com’s buyer was Gary Kremen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur frustrated by the amount of money he was spending on 1-900 dating hotlines.He purchased for ,500 (£1,650) and launched it as a dating service on the open internet in 1995.At the British HQ of the world’s biggest dating agency, every day is Valentine’s Day.The lift doors ping open to reveal a wall plastered in photographs of happy couples – cliché upon cliché of wedding shots, beach scenes, even a pair strolling through a sunflower field.Today, one in five new relationships and one in six marriages are estimated to begin online.
This year, it celebrates its 20th anniversary – marking two decades since a little start-up suggested that Cupid’s arrow might strike through a screen.
Reclining on a purple velvet throne, inside his castle – a sixth-floor office in a grey tower block in central London – Karl Gregory is reeling off some of his favourite statistics. ” He whisks a print-out from a pile of papers on his desk and prods a blurry image in the middle.
“517,000 relationships, 92,000 marriages and around a million babies,” he grins. It’s a picture of a customer’s baby scan under the words: “all thanks to Match.com”.
The couple from California are among the first in history to have gone on an online date – and, two decades later, have a long, happy marriage to show for it.
“I had just broken up with somebody and I decided, aged 53, that maybe it was time to get married,” says Freddie.