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Perhaps her greatest surprise, Ms. Orr said, is that online dating has moved from the “early adopters” of Silicon Valley and has “really taken off in all segments of society.”

Those seeking to date others with specific religious affiliations — Jewish, Catholic, Mormon or Muslim — also are finding their matches online, while others are relying on the Web for even more precise dating matches.

“Finding the right person has become almost impossibly hard,” declares Neil Clark Warren, a University of Chicago-trained clinical psychologist who founded EHarmony.com in Pasadena, Calif.

“Most people cannot do it by themselves without more than a 35 [percent] or 40 percent likelihood of succeeding,” he said, noting that 20 percent of first marriages in the United States fail in the first five years.

In 3 years, Mr. Warren’s company has racked up 2.5 million paying customers who answer — and pass — a 435-question profile. About 20 percent of applicants are rejected. “We are conservative and into it for one thing: find the right person for them to marry,” he said.

Such exactitude comes in part, Mr. Warren asserts, because finding a true match in a built-to-order world can be demanding.

“The reason it’s so hard is because people have become so individuated,” he said in a telephone interview. “The effect of the media is just overwhelming in terms of producing people who have attitudes, goals and values and aspirations and opinions on so many things. You need to find them individuated like you are.”

The EHarmony folks have developed a list of 29 “critical variables” on which you can be matched — the list omits “chemistry,” Mr. Warren says — and “we match everybody with everybody every single day,” he adds.

Mr. Warren, whose parents were married in 1915 at the State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, and stayed together for more than 70 years, said using an Internet service can revive some of the comfort level felt long ago by those whose parents played matchmaker.

He said the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s cut loose some of the social moorings, and that Internet dating is a way to “give some of that power back to trustworthy virtual matchmakers,” as he describes them.

“I do believe that there never has been such a good time for singles because the Internet is such a phenomenal distribution system that makes it possible to do something we never could do before,” he said.