Traditionally, a date is the time when two people get to know each other. In fact, the main reason for going on the date is to get to know the other person. Being slightly uncomfortable and chatting about one's life are the main characteristics of conventional dating. We've all seen dating shows or gone on dates ourselves where we watch two incompatible people awkwardly attempting a friendly discourse.
On the contrary, the characteristics of virtual dating are very different. Usually, people are connected through a virtual dating service, which generally offers the user the ability to set up a profile describing themselves and which can be viewed by others. Using a search function, the user may search for people who have the desired characteristics. This ability to search and establish a common ground before actually meeting are the main characteristics of virtual dating, and the thing that set it most apart.
In most cases, people who date after meeting online will have established large areas of shared interests before going on a date, and are more likely to know a good deal about each other before they even meet. It is these characteristics that make virtual dating so appealing to so many people. What sets many people off from traditional dating is a certain shyness or lack of self-confidence. Not only it is difficult for most people to meet people in real life, there is a certain awkwardness to most dates that can be pretty unappealing.
If you think of an average date, the characteristics are very much like meeting a stranger for the first time: you go out to a movie or dinner and talk about each other's lives - in short, get to know each other. One of the benefits of virtual dating are in its different characteristics: usually you've connected with the profile of the person you are eventually going to go out on a date with, and so by the time you actually meet, and large amount of common ground has already been established.
Some people might argue that in some ways the characteristics of virtual dating dictate that it is missing a certain amount of romance that is present in traditional dating. Although at a certain point you are strangers with your date when you meet for the first time, in the process of getting to know each other there is the constant possibility for a surprise: sure, it's possible that you may find characteristics about your date that you don't like, but it's also possible that you may find surprising characteristics that you adore. It's this possibility of surprise and romance that turns some off the idea of virtual dating.
Regardless of one's opinion on virtual dating, it must be acknowledged that it's particular characteristics dictate that once the virtual daters actually meet in real life there is a higher chance of compatibility, if only for the reason that a lot of common ground has already been established. For these reasons it's not hard to see why virtual date has become more and more popular in recent years, and will likely continue to do so in the future.