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Although they are still popular with tech types—Julian Assange, the mercurial co-founder of Wiki Leaks, reportedly once maintained profiles on dating sites under the name “Harry Harrison”—they now attract millions of people from many walks of life.

Com Score, a research firm, says Match and Zoosk, two large dating services based in the United States, saw 4.6m and 4.8m unique visitors respectively come to their American sites in November 2010.

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“The period between New Year's Day and Valentine's Day is our busiest six weeks of the year,” explains Sam Yagan, the boss of Ok Cupid, a big American dating site.

Once seen as the last resort for a bunch of lonely geeks, online-dating services have gradually shed much of the stigma formerly associated with them.

In countries and cultures in which arranged marriages are common, sites such as India's Shaadi and Bharat Matrimony, which boast many millions of clients, are a big hit with young people who want to influence how their marriage partners are chosen.

And a number of sizeable digital matchmakers, including Jiayuan and Zhenai, have risen to prominence in China.

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