At a dinner party last night (officially a “Hanukkah party” but suspiciously held on Christmas Eve), a 26-year-old guy was talking about how effective online dating has become and, in his opinion, is dramatically more acceptable to people than it was just 3-4 years ago. I pointed out that Internet access is nearly universal in the U.S. (at the very least, a person can use the Web at the local library), online dating goes back at least to 1995, and yet there are plenty of single people who say that they want to be married. Ergo, online dating is a failure.
Obviously there are a lot of people who have met future spouses online, but perhaps those folks would have managed somehow prior to Internet dating. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm shows that the rate of marriage has been falling since 2000 and, according to http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/mvsr/supp/mv43_12s.pdf , has fallen even more dramatically compared to 1990.
[One obvious flaw in online dating/personal ads is that people should not be allowed to describe themselves. What difference does it make what a person thinks of himself if others don't share that view? That's why I wrote a personal ad for a friend (see http://philip.greenspun.com/romance/clarissa/ ) a few years ago. The ad worked and she celebrated her first wedding anniversary last summer.]