Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hottest new date websites marry religion, technology

CHICAGO -- Teena Verbit didn't think her daughter was dating anyone ``spectacular."

So she wrote a personality profile for her daughter and posted it on, a website for Jewish singles.

``I didn't think she would do it," Linda Verbit, 23, said of her mom, ``but she did. She put me on Jdate."

Teena Verbit now approves of the young man her daughter is dating. ``My mom has never been shy about telling me her opinion," said Linda Verbit, who lives outside Philadelphia.

Finding a companion on the Web is hardly new. But now parents are jumping into the online dating and matchmaking game, penning profiles of their children and paying to have them displayed on sites catering to specific religious or ethnic backgrounds.

``My parents signed me up" for, said 30-year-old Sejal Patel. Her dad even enlisted a Web-savvy friend to help him post her profile on the Indian site.

``It seemed like everyone in the world knew about my Shaadi profile before I did," said Patel, who began getting up to 30 e-mails a day. Her parents wrote the profile -- saying she likes family picnics, cooking, and helping out at home -- and paid for the service. The website costs $110 a year for a platinum membership, which includes a bold-faced listing and personalized matchmaking services.

Not everyone buys into religious online dating sites.

``I prefer to meet them as a person, not a profile," said 29-year-old Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago Council of American-Islamic Relations.

While he has visited Naseeb .com, an increasingly popular site for Muslims, Rehab is not a member. Nor does he know of parents pushing such sites on their children, but that wouldn't surprise him. ``It is a viable way for Muslims to meet each other," he said.

Online dating is one of the Web's oldest businesses, with the most well-known sites experiencing flat to modest growth. But sites focusing on religion, race, or ethnicity have soared. At Shaadi .com, for instance, traffic grew 73 percent from June 2005 to June 2006, according to ComScore Media Metrix, which measures Internet activity. Unique visitors to grew 43 percent during that period, and the site is so used to working with such people as Teena Verbit that they even have a name for them: ``Jmoms."

Overall, the number of dating sites jumped to 1,122 from 850 in July 2005, according to data from website tracking firm Hitwise