Chat rooms were one of the original ancestors of the free dating site. Although many of the chat rooms have now disappeared due to the evolution of better opportunities. they were extremely popular during their heyday. Although the chat rooms spent a lot of time trying to convince people to come to the site, there was little to do once the individual arrived. Even so, the chat rooms were a draw to those who were deemed too young to be there. This meant that many visitors to the site were immature and not capable of any meaningful interaction with those looking for friendships and dating opportunities.
Forums related to a specific subject were one of the antecedents of a free dating site. Forums tended to evolve around a particular subject. The typical format was that people would post a question of interest and others would provide answers to the question, or would add related comments or links must as in a conversation only online. Sometimes forums had an associated live chat room. The major difficulty with the forum is that often one or two people who monopolize conversations, sometimes by arguing with each other. The forums and chat rooms usually had a way that people could go into a semi-private area and converse without the conversation being part of the general conversations.
The next evolution for many sites, not just for a free dating site is to set up a paid site where individuals could come and join in the excitement and interest generated by being able to meet other singles who are interested in dating. A paid site is supported by a combination of member fees and advertising revenues, as might be expected. The paid sites painted themselves as being elite and attracting only the elite membership that would make the best dating partners. Many individuals were willing to pay the cost to be perceived as one of the best candidates for a date.
Following the popularity of the paid sites, smart web masters figured out a way to provide a free dating site for individuals who enjoy the online dating scene. Getting sponsorship for previously paid sites meant that the advertising by companies is already built in rather than requiring it to be paid for by membership fees and sales. The zero cost sites are funded by a combination of advertising and sponsorships so that they can grow in the same way as paid sites grow.
A social network site is becoming popular with individuals who are less interest in actual dating. A free dating site focuses mainly on those who want to date, while a social network is more for the purpose of online socializing with others who have like interests. The social sites are structured more like a casual party among friends. Those who enjoy social sites may not have any interest in developing long term relationships with another person as a life partner. They just want to have fun with friends.