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It's become a common thread: Only a few years ago, dating started by locking eyes across a bookstore or catching a smile in a crowded subway.

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But the era of OkCupid and Tinder has irrevocably altered modern dating, replacing meet-cutes with right swipes and real dates with profile perusing, tools that have revolutionized how people date and mate. At least that's the story we tend to hear, bolstered by evidence like Tinder's 50 million monthly users and Grindr's 10, new ups a day.

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But what we call modern might not be so new. In fact, to appreciate the Tinders and the Grindrs of the world, we need to trace it back to a humble predecessor that started it all with just Times New Roman text and a whole lot of honesty: Craigslist. Bringing sex to the Internet: When Craigslist started in as an mailing list in San Francisco, the guiding motto was "doing well by doing good.

With a no-frills layout, near-anonymous profiles and endless options, the site encouraged openness and exploration — and became a place for LGBT daters in particular to find each other, especially once the site spread to cities beyond San Francisco starting in As the Advocate marveled in"It is free. It is uncensored. It is anonymous.

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No wonder it's growing by leaps and bounds, and no wonder it's particularly embraced by gays and their prospects. The anonymity made space for a refreshing level of honesty between strangers. Deborah, who identifies as transmasculine queer, told Mic that she first found Craigslist appealing because it offered a "cruising area" where she could state exactly what her desires were, thus "eliminating too much negotiation on both sides.

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Brock, a gay man, told Mic he appreciated the site's specificity when it came to sexual desires. Experimenting was and remains another Craigslist function.

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As Esther, a transgender woman, told Mic"Finally I found a place to chat to other single gender-nonconforming people. I even tried on a different sexual persona and asked erotic things I've always wanted to ask about transbodies and fantasies just because I could.

Craigslist's candid environment also brings people together for more than sex — like Tinder todaya "hookup" platform can lead to dating and even marriage.

From "Casual Encounters" to hookup apps: The ability to connect people who might not have met otherwise and facilitate real-life meetups for sex or dating? Yeah, that sounds familiar.

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What made Craigslist so valuable in the '90s and early s remains the main function of just about every dating service we have today — including Grindr. What Grindr has been able to do for the next generation of gay Internet daters reflects a much-changed dating environment, however.

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As Simkhai attested, today there's less of a need for anonymity. The anonymity of Craigslist profiles, Simkhai continued, are better suited for one-off dealings and less for dating. That kind of improved technology and the subsequent boom in the dating market have eaten into Craigslist's popularity as platform for dating and sex.

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But so has the fact that more LGBT daters are out of the closet and gay dating itself is no longer centralized in spots like gay bars. That said, Craigslist is far from obsolete.

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For LGBT daters with limited local dating pools, it's still a solid option. Unfortunately, the need for anonymity is still a reality for many. Like Simkhai told MicCraigslist still fills a niche by "allow[ing] for anonymity and the ability to fulfill a wide range of people's needs and desires.

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As the dating market grows more and more saturated, the online dating world seems to be returning to its Craigslist roots with increasingly niche apps. By Daniel Scheffler. ZIP:

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