The data also included usage patterns—how users learned about one another's profiles, how many profiles they viewed on average, and how many introductory messages they sent after viewing those profiles.(The data were anonymized, scrambled, and password-protected to protect user privacy.) Piskorski studied a random sample of 500,000 OKCupid members, focusing on two important stages of forming a relationship: spotting a potential mate, and initiating contact.

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Piskorski found that this function was effective in getting men to write to women, and this was particularly the case for the shorter, older, and overweight men in the sample.

"This was a great finding, because it indicated that social sites can encourage people to contact each other, particularly those who would be least likely to do so in the offline world," Piskorski said.

Piskorski found that the older, shorter, overweight crowd sent out relatively few messages after viewing hundreds of profiles, as compared to the taller, sportier men.

"Basically, the big finding is that men who view most profiles are least likely to message." Piskorski said.

Piskorski found that women, and in particular older ones, were most likely to write to a man once they saw him through Quiver.

This finding suggested that the Quiver functionality helped women to overcome the normative restriction of making the first move.

Platforms including Facebook, Path, and Zynga help us strengthen relationships with people we already know.

The functionality of these businesses is clear, but their immense popularity can be perplexing.

The site allows all of its users to browse each other's profiles, but uses comprehensive quizzes and algorithms to help them find the most compatible matches.

The company provided Piskorski with information about its members, covering user demographics such as age, gender, height, and body type.

After all, people managed to get married and maintain friendships for eons before the Web ever existed.