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In between, the social acceptance of personals has waxed and waned with the times.

"Advertising for a husband or wife has always attracted criticism and the people who did it were always thought of as failures in some way.

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Matrimonial agencies were big business there by the early 18th century, printing ads on behalf of men who paid the agency to recruit them a good wife.

Being single passed the age of 21 was considered almost shameful in that era, and the ads were often a last resort for the men who advertised and the women who read them.

"Someone from an Irish radio station asked me whether the essence of all Internet dating ads was ' Loser seeks Winner,'" he said, "but I think those opinions are really those of younger people, [such as] those under 30 who see no need for Internet dating.

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Personal ads have a history going back at least 300 years, according to a new book on the subject entitled "Classified: The Secret History of the Personal Column" (Random House Books, 2009).

Internet dating is just the modern version of the first "matrimonial" agencies of the 1700s, which helped lonely bachelors search for wives through printed ads, said author H. Cocks, a history lecturer at the University of Nottingham, UK.Personals died away again until the 1960s, when ads became part of the growing counterculture in the UK, along with drug experimentation and the Beatles, the author explains.Like the latter, though, it took some time for the personal ad to be accepted by the Mom-and-Pop public.If a match resulted, it is unlikely that you boasted the fact to your friends, Cocks said."You probably wouldn't talk about it if you were very respectable," he said."Short self-descriptions aren't only the preserve of Internet daters, they are also the essence of things like Facebook and other social networking sites," said Cocks.