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Europeans will never do as much online dating as Americans, even as their internet use ramps up to trans-Atlantic levels.

This is the conclusion of Jupiter Research analyst Nate Elliot on the publication of his Valentine's report, "Online Dating in Europe: 2006".

And the reason?

US dating sites find it easy to get "economies of scale", though not as you would expect from the consolidation of corporate departments like finance and HR, but from the consolidation of people who want a date.

This theory has come from the same land that gave us both Fordism and online dating, a juxtaposition that will not be lost on European daters, particularly in southern countries infamous for starting a "slow movement" in reaction to the obsessive clock-watching of the Yank system of production (Ford), cooking (McDonalds), eating (drive-thru) and everything else (is there a drive-thru dating service yet?).

It is quite clearly nonsense. Indeed, some will say that online dating will always be more popular in the US because left pondian girls are less discriminating or simply desperate. But we will hear this out.

Elliot's theory is based on the web-head version of critical mass: get enough people subscribed to a community site and it supports itself. Elliot, a New Yorker living in London for a year, has theorised that Europeans will never do as much dating as Americans because language differences prevent dating sites working across borders. Boys in Berlin, say, won't be interested in dating girls from Gravesend because they don't speak the same language.

So boys in Berlin will use local websites and girls in Gravesend will stick to their own as well. But neither of their sites will be particularly attractive because they will have too few people on, which means a small selection of potential dates. European sites will, therefore, never reach critical mass.

The US, Elliot reckons, has a population of 300m people who all speak the same language, so subscribers to dating websites are spoilt for choice - despite most of them living too far apart for convenience dating..

So far, so good. But Jupiter's analysis has been built like a house of cards on the shaky foundations provided by some market share estimates and interviews with experts wheeled out by the dating sites themselves.

Sociology, or "human mores", has informed Elliot's thinking, but he refuses to detail how.

He does say dating sites in southern European countries will never be as busy as those in Northern European countries. Because hot blooded Italians and Spaniards don't need any help with their romancing perhaps? Unlike us sun-starved, socially-retarded North Europeans.

So the British and Germans account for 55 per cent of European online dating (excluding central and eastern countries). With the French, they total 70 per cent. It would be interesting to know whether the French component consists mainly of uptight Celts and Normans in the north. Otherwise, these trends are easy to understand. The Germans have inherited a filthy Saxon culture and no more need be said about them. British reserve, combined with an unhealthy cultural infringement from the US can only lead to more production line romance.

European spending on online dating is growing faster than in the US, says Elliot. But at $494m, the Yank dating business is almost double that on the other side of the Atlantic and will always be bigger.

Is it something in their jeans? Sadly, Elliot won't be drawn on Americans' promiscuity: "I don't have any data on that."

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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