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‘And search for people based on a few basic parameters.’ If you really had a grasp of this stuff, meeting people involved a rendezvous in a wine bar with an identifying item of clothing or a red rose in a lapel.

And, as barely anyone had the technical savvy to upload a photo to the internet, there was the inevitable nail-biting wait to see if the date was a hottie or notty – and the nuisance of having to make polite conversation if they were the latter.

How many amorous stirrings have wilted on the vine at the sight of the wrong Wegner or sub-standard task lighting?

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They were tech-aware and working hard and had less time. With the big brand names, like Match, the mission was love.

It made sense.’ Of course, early adopters weren’t all socially inept geeks (a demographic, by the way, that has had a radical rebrand in the last 20 years, pretty much inheriting the earth and everything on it). Hope, and curiosity, springs eternal – maybe the web could cast the net wide enough to find The One. But sites like Nerve in New York offered a different kind of classified, advertising all kinds of casual and filthy sex: this was a prototype of ‘the hook-up’.

We just used big data to look at what we could learn about people,’ Thombre adds.

‘Today, about five per cent of all American marriages are between people who met online.’ By the early Noughties, everyone knew Real Human Beings who had met other Normal People online.

‘In the US there was a far greater acceptance,’ says Oatley.

Last modified 29-Jun-2016 11:39