GSOH. VGL. WLTM. The chances are, if you understand these acronyms, you are of a certain age.

Personal ads in newspapers used to be scattered with these widely understood shortenings (good sense of humour, very good looking, and would like to meet – in case you were wondering) as a way of keeping down the cost of newspaper column inches.

But the hunt for love has evolved. Heterosexual couples in the United States are now more likely to meet online than in any other way, according to a study by Stanford University. Short descriptions in the back pages are no longer considered an option when photos and videos adorn most online profiles.

Image: Stanford University

Two in five couples now meet through dating websites like eHarmony and Tinder, with the internet shaking up the search for a soulmate and increasingly displacing the matchmaking role previously played by friends and family.

Up until a decade ago, being introduced through friends was the most common way that couples met – and that had been the case since the end of the Second World War.

Image: Stanford University

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2013 was the year the tide turned and more heterosexuals met online than via friends and acquaintances. That’s a big shift in a short space of time: in 1995, shortly after the first web browser was launched, just 2% of couples met online.

Tinder, the leading US phone dating app, was first released in 2012. Grindr, the main app for gay men, was released in 2009. Last year, Facebook announced it too would be entering the online dating technology market.

The proliferation of smartphones, launched around 2007, was key to the rise of the online dating market. As well as allowing apps to determine your location and suggest matches nearby, they also made dating available anywhere and anytime.

Image: Statista

Most of the “traditional” ways of hooking up have declined in recent years. The number of couples who meet at school, church or at work has fallen since 1995.

But the picture in the US is not reflective of the rest of the world: it is the biggest user of online dating apps globally and in many other parts of the world uptake has been shaped by cultural norms.

Image: Statista

Although Stanford’s research found no link between how couples meet and the rate of break-ups, back in 2013 research by the University of Chicago found that couples who meet online have happier and longer marriages.

The study wasn’t able to pinpoint why this was, but the sheer volume of potential partners online and the ability to vet them prior to meeting are likely to contribute.

Specialist interest sites also help people target like-minded individuals or those with similar desires – there are sites for everyone from fitness fans and vegans to rural singles and bikers. As well as one especially for supporters of President Donald Trump, which says it wants to make America date again.