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At the British HQ of the world’s biggest dating agency, every day is Valentine’s Day.

The lift doors ping open to reveal a wall plastered in photographs of happy couples – cliché upon cliché of wedding shots, beach scenes, even a pair strolling through a sunflower field.

The couple from California are among the first in history to have gone on an online date – and, two decades later, have a long, happy marriage to show for it.

“I had just broken up with somebody and I decided, aged 53, that maybe it was time to get married,” says Freddie.

The first users of were a motley bunch: all of them tentative; some optimistic, others outright weirdos.

Bill and Freddie Straus, aged 76 and 72, fall into the first category.

“It’s amazing to have been a pioneer of something that is now so normal,” she says.

Though early users were taking a gamble by signing up to the site, the real leap of faith in Match.com’s history took place on December 27, 1992.

“will bring more love to the planet than anything since Jesus Christ,” he pronounced. Reclining on a purple velvet throne, inside his castle – a sixth-floor office in a grey tower block in central London – Karl Gregory is reeling off some of his favourite statistics. ” He whisks a print-out from a pile of papers on his desk and prods a blurry image in the middle.“517,000 relationships, 92,000 marriages and around a million babies,” he grins. It’s a picture of a customer’s baby scan under the words: “all thanks to Match.com”.It has a Google-like track record of gobbling up its competition: it purchased Ok Cupid in 2011, and also owns Tinder, a wildly popular mobile app founded in 2012.“Try this experiment next time you’re out for dinner with a group of friends,” suggests Gregory, who is Match.com’s UK manager and European director.

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