Oct. 20, 2006 — -- When it comes to love, fate is a thing of the past.
It appears Cupid has tapped into a higher level of a love connection: the Internet.
These days, people are turning to online communication services like Skype, which allow users to talk for free over the Internet.
Skype integrates video and voice through the Internet to make the connection more valuable to users.
Since its launch in 2003, Skype has slowly shifted from being a software that allows friends, families and business partners to connect, to a software that allows users to "matchmake" their ways into an online dating community.
In October 2005, Salwa Al-Saban was in Egypt, quickly writing an e-mail before she headed to bed.
It turned out to be her first encounter with future husband Mark Passerby.
She was fairly new to Skype -- having downloaded the program three days prior -- but she and Passerby quickly fell in love.
"It felt like we'd known each other for 100 years," said Passerby, a 41-year-old from Lansing, Mich.
"It was late at night, and I was typing an e-mail. I stayed up and talked to him for five hours," said Al-Saban, a 25-year-old doctor who later changed her bedtime to coincide with Passerby's.
Within a month, the two got engaged, and soon after, Passerby flew to Cairo, Egypt, to be with his fiancee.
While talking online through Skype, Passerby set up a projector on his wall that allowed Al-Saban to view the movies through the webcam.
"We would watch movies together," she said.
Passerby and Al-Saban found they had many things in common such as music, movies, traveling and tennis.
"It felt perfect," said Al-Saban, upon meeting Passerby in person for the first time.
It was one of many firsts for the couple.
On their first date, they traveled down the Nile and shared their first kiss.
Early this year, Lavalife, an online dating service, teamed up with Skype to allow its members to connect with other singles over the Internet for free for a limited time.
Lavalife, founded in 1987, began as a mass technology-based dating business that allowed users to connect by voice communication through Lavalife Phone.
Today, it has more than 600,000 active members, exchanging more than 1.3 million messages every day, according to its Web site.
Lavalife's pay-as-you-go service integrates Lavalife Phone, Web, and mobile technology, which allow users to chat, text-message, connect live one-on-one, and have live video communication over the Internet.
Lavalife is enlisting the use of Skype services that will allow members to connect online through chat, phone, and video communication for free until the end of the year.
"Online dating has become multidimensional. It's more real life," said Marina Glogovac, CEO of Lavalife. "In 1987, what existed then were personals and classifieds."
"We understand the power of voice," she said. Glogovac said the convergence of different technologies played a role in online dating.
"It's enabling consumers to have a full experience," she said.
Being single is fun, and it's a journey, she said.
"In 1987, being single was different than today. There are over 96 million singles in the U.S., and there has been a change in how singles feel about themselves."
Today, technology has enabled singles to have another platform to talk, she said. "[A] forum which has become more accepted and more mainstream," Glogovac said.
Yahoo! similarly lets singles connect over the Internet through Yahoo! Instant Messenger, an online software that allows users to send instant messages for free.
Members of Yahoo! Personals, an online dating service, can exchange messages through Yahoo! Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Voice to keep in touch with other singles.
"Yahoo! Voice features are not integrated into Yahoo! Personals," said Terrell Karlsten, spokeswoman for the Internet service.
But the service can be integrated as a pay-as-you-go service, similar to Lavalife's.
Currently, Yahoo! Voice has a promotion until the end of the year that allows users to sign up for Yahoo! Voice and gives 100 free minutes to five friends and families, Karlsten said.
"Yahoo! Personals has grown as consumers spend more and more time online. Many of our members who meet online through Yahoo! Personals now take their relationship to the next level through online chat and phone services," said Yahoo! spokeswoman Annie Sammis.
"But many people like to begin by exchanging e-mails, which gives them time to craft a response at their convenience. For online dating, e-mail tends to be more well thought out, affording a potentially deeper, personal interaction. IM, on the other hand, is great for gauging a quick initial interest," she said.
Phil Wolff, managing editor of Skype Journal, said that Skype users were able to take their relationship to different levels through "loads of intimacy."
"It lets people escalate through different levels of intimacy, from chat, to voice, and then steps it up to video," Wolff said.
In November 2005, just four days into his trip, Passerby married Al-Saban in Cairo.
They had to wait nearly a year for her paperwork to be filed and cleared so that she could enter the United States.
In the meantime, the couple continued to keep in touch through Skype by talking for hours at a time online.
"I would call his cell phone every day through Skype," Al-Saban said.
"Mark has a great sense of humor and is really wonderful," she said. "I had found a person the same as me. We have the same love and passion[s]."
"Mark, he believes that there's one person out there. A soul mate," she said.
Passerby said that he knew right away he wanted to marry Al-Saban.
"She's really intelligent, has a spontaneous character, and is a very interesting person."
Today, Al-Saban is two months pregnant and soon hopes to practice medicine in the United States.
She and Passerby are enjoying their life together in the United States.
"She's seen snow for the first time in Michigan," he said.